Monday, July 8, 2013

A recent survey by Harris Interactive and State Farm Insurance found that 60% of Americans have a pet peeve with someone who lives nearby. Certain next-door nuisances -- such as annoying pets, unkempt yards, foul odors, and dangerous trees -- could reduce your home value by 5% or more, according to the Appraisal Institute. So what's your recourse? Try working with your neighbor but before you approach them, have a game plan: Temper your temper. "The worst thing to do is march over when you're angry and demand action," says Mary Greenwood, author of How to Negotiate Like a Pro. Take 24 hours. Give notice. Don't try to work this out over the hedgerow. Schedule a time to chat. Maybe even invite the offender to your house, a friendly gesture that also allows him to see his ugly satellite dish from your perspective. Do your homework. Before the conversation, research what state laws or local ordinances apply, in case your neighbor needs extra persuading. Keep a log. A record of your dispute can help refresh your memory should you eventually go to the authorities or to court, says Emily Doskow, co-author of Nolo's Neighbor Law. Home prices have been rising steadily all year due to strong demand and a limited supply of quality homes on the market. You need to make sure that you are able to enjoy this uptick in home values by limiting any objection a potential buyer might have due to neighbor issues.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Mortgage Rates take a dip.....

Mortgage rates continue to fluctuate with the market unsure about how long the Federal Reserve's aggressive mortgage-bond buying program will last. This week rates dipped back down again, with the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage coming in at 4.39%, Freddie Mac reported in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey. A year ago, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.62%. Just a week earlier, the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage skyrocketed to 4.46%, up from 3.93% — the steepest week-over-week increase on record since 1987. The 15-year FRM this week came in at 3.39%, down from 3.50% last week. The 15-year FRM averaged 2.89% a year ago. Rates remain near historic lows and homebuyer affordability remains strong for the typical family in most parts of the country, which should help fuel the ongoing housing recovery, Fannie Mac wrote. Meanwhile, the 5-year Treasury-index adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.10% this week, up from last week’s average of 3.08%. The 5-year ARM averaged 2.79% one year ago. The 1-year Treasury-index ARM remained unchanged from last week at 2.66%. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.68%. "Fixed mortgage rates fell over the holiday week as market concerns over the timing of the Federal Reserve’s pullback in bond purchases eased somewhat," said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. He added, "Rates are still low by historical standards and should continue to aid in housing affordability and the ongoing recovery of the housing market. For instance, pending home sales rose 6.7% in May to the strongest pace in over six years. In addition, residential construction spending increased in four of the first five months this year." Bankrate data also shows mortgage rates declining again. Bankrate’s 30-year, FRM fell to 4.48% from 4.61% a week earlier. In addition, the 15-year, FRM dropped to 3.62%, down from 3.73%. The 5/1 ARM actually rose to 3.48% from 3.45%.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Best advice now for homebuyers and sellers

Top experts and Money readers share their smartest tips on everything from selling a home quickly to winning a bidding war Sell your home fast Underprice it from the start. If you list your home for at least 10% less than it's worth, you'll often sell it for 10% more. Buyers notice a house that's underpriced: They'll take it by storm and drive up the price with a bidding war. People worry that setting the price low will deter bidders. That's not the case. If you don't get competitive bids, you didn't truly underprice the house to begin with. -- Barbara Corcoran, founder, real estate firm the Corcoran Group and panelist on ABC's "Shark Tank" Win a bidding war Go as high as the maximum price you'd ever be willing to pay -- if someone outbids you, you'll feel confident you gave it your best shot. Sometimes it's not just about the money. Give the seller some breathing room too. Buyers often signal their interest by offering to close quickly, but that move might backfire in this market: If the sellers haven't found a new place yet, they may be unable to accept your offer. Instead, propose a seller's residential lease. You close on the house quickly, then rent it back for 60 or 90 days. That gives the sellers a chance to look for a home in a no panicked way -- and gets you the house you want. -- Mary Beth Harrison, founder and realtor, Keller Williams Elite, Dallas

Monday, June 24, 2013

Home Sales Jump 4.2%; Median Prices Jump 15.4%:

Home Sales Jump 4.2%; Median Prices Jump 15.4%: Existing home sales improved in May but the supply of homes for sale remains tight — which isn't good news for buyers, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Total existing home sales increased 4.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million in May from 4.97 million in April, NAR said. That's the highest rate since November 2009 and almost 13% above year-ago levels. The inventory of homes for sale, meanwhile, dipped to a 5.1 month supply, down from 5.2 months in April. That means all the homes would sell in that time frame if no new supply was added and sales continued at May's pace. Realtors consider a 6-month supply to be a balanced market between buyers and sellers. Homes are also selling fast. The median time on market for all homes was 41 days in May, down from 46 in April. Nationwide, 45% of all homes sold in May were on the market for less than a month, NAR says.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pending Home Sales Surge Over 10%:

Pending Home Sales Surge Over 10%: The National Association of Realtors reported that signed contracts to purchase a home increased 10.3% from this time a year ago. These are called "Pending Home Sales" because there is a signed contract but the home has not closed yet. On a month-over-month basis, Pending Home Sales increased 0.3%. Sales Prices continue to shoot up and the number of Pending Home Sales would have increased even more if it wasn't for a huge shortage in available quality inventory. "The housing market continues to have gains from already very positive conditions. Pending contracts so far this year easily correspond to higher closed home sales in 2013," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. "Because of inventory shortages, higher home sales will push up home values to the highest level in five years," Yun said, adding that the national median existing-home price should increase close to 8 percent and exceed $190,000 in 2013. There are also fewer distressed homes for sale. Banks have been doing more aggressive loan modifications, and some banks are reportedly holding foreclosed homes off the market, as home prices continue to rise.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home Prices Jump Most in Seven Years

U.S. single-family home prices rose in March, racking up their best annual gain in nearly seven years as the housing recovery continues to provide a source of strength for the economy, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday. The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 1.1 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, topping economists' forecasts for 1 percent. Prices in the 20 cities jumped 10.9 percent year over year, beating expectations for 10.2 percent and the biggest increase since April 2006. All 20 cities covered by the index saw yearly gains for the third month in a row. Average prices in March were back at their late-2003 levels. For the first quarter of this year, the seasonally adjusted national index rose 3.9 percent, stronger than the 2.4 percent gain that was seen in the final quarter of last year.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Great Tips for Spring and Summer Nature Photography

Date: June 1, 2013 Time: 9:00am to 12:00pm Venue: Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary Address: 280 Eliot St, Natick, MA 01760 Cost: Adults $55.00m/ $65.00nm Get great tips from a pro as you learn to overcome some of the top challenges of nature photography. From tricky lighting to moving wildlife, we will cover these and other challenges as we explore beautiful late spring and early summer habitats around the sanctuary. Small class size for individual attention. Tripod recommended. Pre-registration required. Online registration available. Website: Click to visit the site

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How to Save on Energy in the Summer

Summertime means an increase in temperature, and if you’re part of the majority of people in the U.S., it may also mean an increase in your utility bills as well.
There are some changes you can make this summer that will help reduce your energy consumption and still keep you comfortable.
  1. Clean your air conditioning filters every month. Most people ignore the air filters until something goes wrong. Cleaning your air filters every month will help ensure that your system is functioning as efficiently as possible.
  2. Unplug electronics when they’re not in use, or use a Smart Strip. Simply turning off the T.V. or other appliances won’t put a stop to your power consumption. While it might not make a huge difference, keeping items plugged in can add up over the year.
  3. Shut doors and vents of unused rooms and use ceiling fans when you can. This can all lighten the load on your air conditioner.
  4. Turn up your thermostat. Set your thermostat to 77 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees or off when you are away. You will save 1-3% per degree for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees.
  5. Shade your windows. Install patio covers, awnings, and solar window screens to shade your home from the sun. Also, plant trees, shrubs, and vines strategically to properly shade your windows and keep the sun from heating up your house.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Plugged Drain......

Bypass/Sliding Door Adjustment
Yuck…your tub or bathroom sink is draining slowly AGAIN. Every time you remove the trap or use a plumbing snake, you know you’ll be dealing with a major mess. And the hair in the trap is disgusting! But you’re tired of standing in water when taking a shower.

Well, next time you’re at the grocery store or hardware store, pick up a drain cleaner: a flexible plastic strip with small hooks along its length. It looks like a very thin Christmas tree.

Without dismantling anything, you push this thin plastic tool down the drain and pull out all that hair and junk. For some drains, it helps if you remove the stopper for better access.

Just be ready for a mess when you pull it out. Have a rag or paper towel ready to catch the junk. You should also wear rubber gloves.
After the junk is removed, run very hot water down the drain for several minutes.
If you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, you could also try this with a length of thin wire bent to form a hook on one end. This tool is not as effective, and it will take more effort to catch the hair and junk – but it can work.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's Spring......

Mulch with old newspapers to stop weeds. Wet the sheets and put the layers around plants and garden beds, covering with soil as you go. Weeds won't be able to pierce the wet newspaper layers. You know how kids eat things that aren't good for them? Ants do, too. If you have an ant problem, put small piles of polenta where you see ants; they'll gobble it up, return 'home' and won't be able to digest it. Your ant problem will soon be gone. Use this homemade cleaning formula to scrub your decks: one cup of powdered laundry detergent, a gallon of hot water, and 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach (to kill moss or mildew). Check shrubs and trees for winter damage and prune accordingly. Remove dead wood or broken branches. Replant any shrubs that have heaved out of the soil before the roots dry out. Check your garden hoses for cracks and leaks and examine the washers at the connectors.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Six Tips to Light Up Your Kitchen



Want to create an eye-catching kitchen that adds value to your home, too? Let there be light — but not too much, according to kitchen design and lighting experts. "Since the kitchen is such a draw these days, especially for the gourmet, you want to make sure that you have plenty of task lights to showcase the work spaces," says Frankie Cameron, national account manager for Bellacor Lighting based in Mendota Heights, Minn. "But people tend to over-light, using too much wattage or just one super bright light in the center of the kitchen that leaves you standing in shadows."

Instead, both Cameron and Mark Lambert, a contractor and owner of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen in Bellingham, Wash., recommend a combination of ambient, task and decorative lighting. Here are their tips for achieving that balance:

1. Start Underneath
"The least expensive, easiest layer to add is under-cabinet lighting," says Cameron. "Manufacturers like Sea Gull and Kichler make reasonably priced xenon lights, which are cooler than halogen and make the kitchen more user-friendly."
Cameron suggests low-voltage xenon bulbs in varying lengths to light counters or islands below shelves or cabinets, but recommends steering clear of small "puck" lights. "They give your counters and shelves these odd spots of light and you can see some models plainly," she says.
Xenon lights like Kichler's Series II are also inexpensive to retrofit and ordinarily plug into existing outlets without new wiring.

2. Choose a Ceiling Light for Now and Later
"If your ceiling mount fixture is outdated, replace it with a newer model that has a nice finish and gives off a nice light, but isn't overly embellished," says Cameron. "You want to make sure it will work with a contemporary or traditional decor."
One model she recommends is the ceiling mount fixture from Access Lighting, which comes in brushed steel, white and rust finishes and is a plain, contemporary looking bubble.

3. Pick Out the Popular Stuff
For mood-setting (or ambient) lights, Lambert says you can't go wrong with two established trends: the pendant light and the track light.
"One of the more interesting brands of track lighting is Tech Lighting — a bit costly, but very cool stuff over an island or counter," he says. The brand's Single Circuit T-trak light, for example, features a satin nickel and white powder coat finish, curves in numerous configurations, holds eight lamps and has dozens of models from which to choose.
Glass pendant lights have also been holding their own in the kitchen market for some time, says Cameron, because they are fresh and pretty and can still work with different decors. One model that's beautiful and stylistically flexible is Restoration Hardware's Clemson Double Kitchen Pendant — its glass is a plain prism and the nickel-plated brass frame works with traditional, contemporary or eclectic designs.

4. Decorate, but Impersonally
A little decorative lighting is a nice touch in a kitchen and that, too, can be achieved with art-glass pendant lamps, says Cameron: "Many of the hand-blown fixtures can really add to the overall aesthetic in a kitchen, and that's important when you're trying to sell a buyer on a luxury kitchen."
Many high-end lighting manufacturers, individual designers and craftspeople offer larger fixtures that make prominent artistic statements. While these arty, expensive pieces are not a necessity, they're a nice add-on when you're positioning your kitchen as a luxury retreat. One such fixture is the Old Candle Tray Suspended Lamp from Kichler, manufactured to resemble a soft collection of blown-glass candle holders.

5. Suit Someone Else
Whether you're choosing modest or lavish decorative lights, remember you're not looking for the style that most appeals to you but for the one that's most likely to enhance the value of the kitchen.
"I always try to be cautious about choosing things I personally like, because they may not appeal to people looking to buy a house," says Lambert. "If you are really concerned about adding value to your home, check the home improvement magazines and online sites for trendy but popular decorating ideas. If your budget allows get help from an interior decorator or designer."

6. Stick to One Look
There are a lot of really nice, really pretty kitchen lights on the market, and potential buyers will probably expect to see some of them in the finest kitchens. That said, make sure any replacement lights your purchase match the current decor or are neutral enough to work with the wishes of the future home owners.

"Mixing and matching is probably not the best approach for the novice," says Lambert. "Stay with your theme."

Any time you're tempted to imprint your personal style, remind yourself that your goal is added value, not artistic expression.

Housing Recovery Shows Up In Job Gains:


Believe it or not, interest rates do not drive housing demand.  Jobs do.  We have had some of the hottest housing markets on record when Unemployment Rates were low but interest rates where high.  Simply speaking - if you feel more secure about your job, you are more likely to purchase a home.

Friday's Unemployment Rate dropped from 7.6% to 7.5% but more importantly, the economy added 165,000 non-farm jobs.

Stronger housing means more jobs, not just construction jobs, all jobs. When consumers feel more confident about the value of their homes, they spend more money. Their homes, after all, are likely their single largest investment.

They may not take the money out of their homes, but they just feel more financially comfortable, and that comfort sends them out spending. They also spend more on home improvement.

Residential construction jobs increased by just over 6,000 in April from the previous month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and residential specialty trade contracting jobs (plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.) grew by over 7,000.

Retailers are also seeing the effects of housing growth. Homeowners spend an average $7,400 furnishing a newly built home, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

"Spending at furniture and appliance stores is finally coming back, which has meant more hires there since the start of the year," added Swonk.

Home prices were up just over 10 percent nationally in February, according to CoreLogic, which continues to bring thousands of homeowners out from underwater on their mortgages. That has allowed more borrowers to refinance to lower monthly payments, which in turn gives them more spending money. It also gives them more confidence that they will be able to afford more in the coming year.

"Consumers' views regarding the housing market have been increasingly more positive," noted Fannie Mae's chief economist Doug Duncan. "Our April National Housing Survey, to be released next Tuesday, is expected to show that the housing market is gradually approaching its sweet spot, as the share of consumers who believe that it is a good time to buy remains high while the share of those who think it is a good time to sell continues its upward trend witnessed over the past year."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Air Conditioning Maintenance and Repair

  • To ensure efficient operation, check filters every month. Clean or replace as needed.
  • Have annual system maintenance service performed one month before the cooling season begins.
  • Keep the condensing unit free of debris.
  • Trim shrubs and plants near condensing unit to ensure proper air flow/circulation.
  • Bent condensing unit fins can be straightened with a fine comb.

Air Conditioning Quick Fixes

Problem: Water leaks into the walls or ceiling.
  • Make sure the drain line is not restricted and condensation drains freely.

Problem: Unit constantly cycles on and off.
  • Call a qualified professional to clean the evaporator unit and fan.

Problem: Air conditioner doesn't make air cold enough.
  • Keep area around the exterior condensing unit clear of leaves, bushes and other obstructions to ensure adequate airflow.
  • Clean or replace air filter.
  • Create shade for the unit.
  • Secure the insulation firmly to the suction line (large line) and replace any worn-out insulation.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Housing industry boosts employment

Ilyce Glink /
(MoneyWatch) Despite an economic picture that looks considerably rosier than it has in the past few years, one nagging problem continues to hinder economic growth: Unemployment.

For the first time in years, the housing industry may be able to help.

While the most recent unemployment surveys for March are weak overall, the housing recovery is responsible for a rare bright spot: Construction job growth, according to Freddie Mac's U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook report.

Non-farm jobs grew by only 88,000 in March, well below market predictions. Unemployment ticked down this month, but not by much. March's unemployment rate dropped barely .1 percent to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in February, and only .6 percent from March a year ago.

While that's progress, it's very slow progress.

Unemployment numbers are still high compared with pre-recession rates that hovered around 4 percent. And while they are below the more than 10 percent unemployment rate at the height of the recession, a deep dive into the numbers shows that this particular dip in unemployment is not attributable to job growth but to labor force participation dwindling, according to Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Northaft.

The good news is that construction, one of the of the hardest-hit industries during the recession, amounts to 15 percent of overall job growth in the past six months. The housing recovery means more builders are starting construction on new housing units. In fact, housing starts were up 47 percent from March 2012, exceeding one million starts at an annualized rate for the first time in five years.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also announced increased builder confidence in the housing and construction market, which almost doubled over the year. However, even with these big gains the index indicates that on average builders are not necessarily optimistic about housing markets -- they are just much less pessimistic.

"Housing construction is starting to pick up, but is well below historical averages," Nothaft said. "Supported by low mortgage rates, we expect more homes to be built in 2013 than in any year since 2007. This increased construction employment should continue to help bring down the overall unemployment rate."

It's a careful balance for now, but as long as interest rates remain low enough to attract buyers, and housing prices grow enough to attract builders, the construction recovery will continue to grow and help spur overall growth in employment.

If the trends continue, this could be the first year in a long time that the housing sector actually helps the economic recovery, rather than hinder it. The housing sector is expected to add a half a percentage point to GDP growth this year, according to the report.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Get the most from your home repair dollars

By Marcie Geffner •
Plumber working on sink
For newer homeowners who aren't familiar with their home's maintenance needs, home maintenance chores can be daunting. When the list of home repair chores, from inspecting the roof to regrouting the bathtub, grows overwhelming the question naturally arises: What's most important?
The answer: Maintenance chores that involve safety or water intrusion should be top priority, according to David Tamny, American Society of Home Inspectors inspector and owner of Professional Property Inspection in Columbus, Ohio.
"One of the most important elements of homeowner maintenance is anything that has to do with drainage or water flow. Gutters or problems with grading and drainage around the structure that can contribute to foundation problems are probably things you don't want to defer," he says.

Stop water intrusion, fix safety hazards

In the safety category, homeowners should prioritize:
  • Inspecting and repairing broken hand railings or walkway cracks that could lead to a slip-and-fall injury.
  • Pushing the "test" buttons on electrical outlets to make sure the ground-fault circuits are working.
  • Installing and testing smoke detectors in sleeping areas and hallways that lead into bedrooms.
Water is so insidious that it's the No. 1 concern of home inspectors at Amerispec of Northeast Florida, according to Charles Gifford, owner of the home inspection company in Jacksonville.
In the water category, homeowners should prioritize:
  • Cleaning out rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Repairing stucco cracks.
  • Using good-quality exterior paints.
  • Re-caulking showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilets to keep water out of the walls and floors.
  • Repairing and sealing window leaks, which can cause mold and damage the structure of the home.
  • Cutting back plants that have grown too close to the foundation.
"Vegetation should be trimmed back so rain is running away from the house," Gifford says.

Head's up for a roof inspection

A periodic roof inspection is also a must because undetected leaks can cause myriad costly home repairs. How often a roof should be professionally inspected depends on the age and type of roof and local weather conditions. An older roof exposed to severe weather should be inspected more often than a newer roof in a mild climate.
In any case, homeowners shouldn't wait until they see telltale stains on the ceilings to get the roof checked out. Instead, a roof inspection should be part of the regular home repair routine.
"When you start having damage due to water in the interior (of the home), that's going to devalue the property, and the worse that it gets, the more expensive and tough it will be to fix," Tamny says.

Cool it now: your HVAC system

Next on the to-do list should be the home's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, known in the trade by the abbreviation "HVAC," whether that means a furnace, air-conditioning unit, heat pump or other components. These systems should be serviced at least once or twice a year because, again, poor maintenance practices can lead to much more costly repairs.
"A dirty filter can lead to all kinds of problems," Gifford says.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Get Your Cabinets Organized

Make the most of your kitchen storage space

Most people use their kitchens multiple times each day. Your kitchen cabinets are opened and closed more times than you can count. Having your kitchen cabinets organized makes it easier for everyone to find what they need in a timely manner.
Get rid of it
The very first thing to do is to take absolutely everything out of every kitchen cupboard and put it either on a table or on another surface where you can go through it all.
Why? Because chances are you are storing a number of things in your kitchen cupboards that you don’t need or that should be stored elsewhere. Weed out those items and either store them where they should be stored, throw them out or give them away.
While it may not help organization, it will make your cupboards more inviting if they are clean. Get a bucket of soapy water and a rag and wipe down the cupboards.
Like items
For those using the cupboards, whether frequently or infrequently, it helps to keep like items together. That easy enough for glassware, plates, serving pieces and other utensils, but what about food and ingredients?
What can help in that situation is to take like food items and put them in separate small bins. For example, put all baking items such as flour, baking soda, baking powder and the like in a covered container — like a small tub — and label it “baking supplies.”
Depending on the size of the bins, you can stack them on a shelf, giving you more storage room in your cupboards.
Canned goods shelf
It’s natural to want to stack canned goods on top of each other on a cupboard shelf. While that may initially seem like a good idea, what you end up with are rows of stacked cans where you can see what you have in the front row, but not in the back.
The solution to this challenge is to use a tiered shelf organizer to store canned goods. That way you can see everything without having to empty the shelf.
Deep cabinets
While they can store a lot, deep kitchen cabinets don’t help if you can’t see what is in the back. Installing sliding drawers in these cabinets can help you see everything at a glance.
The door and wall
Don’t overlook a cabinet or pantry door or wall for storage. A door rack on a pantry door can hold frequently used items. A wall rack can make use of what could be wasted space in a cupboard.
Take a good look at your cupboards, and with a little thought and elbow grease, you can make optimal use of your cupboards and nothing gets lost.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Electronic /Appliance Recycle Fundraiser

•Date: 04/20/2013
•Time: 1:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: First Congregational Church of Natick
2 East Central Street
Natick, MA 01760

All Towns Welcome

Electronics and Appliance Recycle Day
First Congregational Church
Saturday April 20, 1:00 PM- 5:00 PM

Bring these items to the parking lot at 2 East Central Street, Natick MA
Electronics such as:

Computers, Scanners, Copiers, etc...$5 ea.

Appliances such as: Dishwashers, Dryers, Stoves, Micowaves, Dehumidifiers,
Refrig.,AC, Exercise Equipments, Lawn Mowers, Small Engine Items, Snow Blowers, Lawn Mowers, etc...$10 ea.Tv's 10-25, monitors $10.

Also included: Bicycle Recycle Day, no fee.

Bring your unwanted old or new bicycle and drop it off, it will be reused again.
Many bicycle will go to Ghana, some will go to the Batist Church in Worcester.
No Fee: All household batteries, car batteries and cell phones.

Any Questions: Please contact Dennis Wood 508-277-7513

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Installation tips for 3 unique shelving options

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News®
Whether it's a single decorative shelf in the living room or a set of rough shelving in the garage, we all love shelves. We display our prized collections and toss our messy paint cans on them. We'll put them high and low, and just about anywhere space allows.
Shelves offer you a chance to do some practical organizing while at the same time offering opportunities for some fun, elegant, whimsical or eclectic decorating. But above all, the shelves need to stay on the wall and support their intended loads, so today let's take a look at some different types of shelving and shelving supports, and how they're installed.

Tools needed
The tools you'll need for installing shelves are pretty basic -- usually just a cordless screwdriver, a tape measure, a level, and possibly a stud finder. To ensure that the shelf is level, you'll want to use as long a level as possible for the length of the shelf being installed. In other words, don't use a 7-inch torpedo level on a 5-foot shelf.

"Floating" shelves
As their name implies, floating shelves appear to be self-supporting, with no brackets or other supports underneath them. Floating shelves are typically relatively short and decorative, and are ideal for the living room, den, entry or other areas where you want to create a display area, or perhaps install some stereo speakers or other electronics.
Floating shelves are usually solid wood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), come in different lengths, are painted or stained, and may have a square or routed edge, sometimes with an additional decorative molding underneath. There are both straight and pie-shaped versions for corners. They're installed with the included hardware, which typically fits into a groove in the back of the shelf. A variation of the wooden floating shelf is one made of tempered glass, which fits into a slotted bracket that's attached to the wall.
With any floating shelf, pay careful attention to the load rating, which is the amount of weight that the shelf and the included attachment hardware is rated to hold. Also, be sure that you carefully follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.

Individual shelves on brackets
For a larger or longer shelf installation, use an individual board on brackets. These are ideal for a kid's room, where you want to display trophies and store toys and books, or perhaps in a den, home office or just about any other room. They're also fine in a garage or shop for utility shelving.
For this type of shelf, you need to start with a design concept. Will this be decorative or utilitarian? How long and how deep does the shelf need to be?
From there, a visit to your local home center or hardware store will offer you a number of options for both the shelving board and the brackets. You can opt for a prefinished board in solid lumber, veneered plywood or other materials, melamine or MDF. Or you can buy a piece of raw lumber or sheet goods, and cut your own to whatever length and width you need, then stain or paint it as desired.
The brackets also range from decorative to utilitarian. At the decorative end, you can find beautiful carved and routed brackets, also called corbels, in a variety of sizes and materials. At the utilitarian end are painted and raw metal brackets that offer plenty of strength at a low cost, and are great for shops, garages, and some interior applications where you might be opting for a more commercial or industrial look.
For the greatest strength and load-bearing capacity, the brackets need to be anchored into the wall studs. Some decorative brackets have hidden fastening systems that allow the fasteners to be completely concealed behind the bracket, while others use exposed screws.

Multiple shelves
For closets, garages, home offices or other areas where you need lots of storage, you might be more in the market for a multiple shelf arrangement. There are two basic options for how you can set this up: supported from the back or supported from the sides.
With a set of shelves supported from the back, you're basically doing the same thing as what you do with individual shelves. If you want all the shelves to be in fixed positions, you can simply mount several shelves at different heights on brackets. Some people will make this into a more decorative focal point on a wall by altering the spacing between the shelves, the length of the shelves, or both.
If you want the shelves to be adjustable so that you periodically alter the height between them, then the easiest solution is to install adjustable shelf standards, also called shelf hanging tracks, directly on the wall; again, be sure they're anchored to the studs. Shelf support arms then clip into the tracks, and the shelves rest on the arms.
The other option is to support the shelves from the sides. This involves adding supports on each side, and is most commonly seen in a closet situation.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to use predrilled melamine boards, which are typically available in 8-foot lengths and widths of 12, 16 and 24 inches. The boards are white with one banded edge. Simply install the boards vertically in the closet, then install shelving horizontally between them. Shelf pins fit into the predrilled holes to make installation and adjustment of the shelves a breeze. If you don't like the predrilled option, you can use solid boards and attach shelf standards to them instead.
Melamine and other types of shelving and all of the installation brackets are available at home centers and most hardware stores and lumberyards.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at All product reviews are based on the author's actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

5 Common Mistakes When Remodeling Your Bathroom

by Michael Franco, Angie's List Contributor

When it comes to home improvement projects, taking an old bathroom from dingy to dazzling can add significant value to your home — especially if you do it correctly.
It's all too easy however, to get sidetracked during a bathroom revamp and find yourself drowning in unexpected costs and unanticipated problems. That's why it's critical to avoid these common bathroom remodeling mistakes.

Budgeting too little

According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost of remodeling a bathroom is $16,634. You'd be wise to budget more than this though, especially if you're doing your remodel in an older home. In fact, if your home is more than 50 years old, you're likely to find galvanized steel pipes in the walls. You're probably going to want to replace them with more durable PVC or copper plumbing, which will reduce problems that can come when the steel pipe corrodes. Also, because bathrooms are wet areas of the home, be prepared to encounter water damage and possibly even mold, which can increase the price of the project exponentially.

Being trendy

If you've ever shopped for a new home, you've come across once-trendy bathroom nightmares everywhere: pink tile that was in vogue in the '50s, avocado green sinks and toilets that were popular in the '70s and Jacuzzi tubs that were all the rage in the '80s. Instead of going with the latest design fad in your bathroom, consider designing in a more classic, timeless way. You can never go wrong with neutral colors, simple tiles and a fresh, clean look. You might not get a shocking contemporary design now, but you also won't shock future buyers with a style that's gone the way of the shag carpet.

Cheaping out

While it's important not to overspend on your bathroom remodel and to shop for the best deal on fixtures and materials, it's equally critical not to try to save money in areas of the project that will only cause you more trouble later. Shoddy sink and shower fixtures will only need to be replaced in a few years. Cheap cabinets will have doors that don't fit properly and will always be a source of frustration. Using substandard underlayment on your subfloor can lead to water damage. And installing an inexpensive diverter valve in the shower means that you might never stop fighting a hot-and-cold water war with the other people in your home.

It's equally important not to skimp on paying for a quality contractor and to remember that the person who gives you the cheapest quote might not be the best person for the job. You'll want to hire someone who actually specializes in bathroom remodels because particular challenges exist with this kind of work that you don't find in general carpentry projects. You'll also want to make sure your remodeler works with a licensed and insured plumber.

Ignoring clearance distances

When remodeling a bathroom, it's so easy to get swept up in the fun stuff — colors, tiles, fixtures — that you actually forget that the space is about function first, then form. So before you begin breaking down walls and moving plumbing around, be sure that the bathroom will work in a logical manner. You don't want your knees pressed up against the side of the shower when you're using the toilet or to have shower or cabinet doors that bang against other surfaces or a bathroom door that can't open all the way because it's blocked by something else. Lay everything out on paper before beginning, making sure to accurately measure distances and clearances.

Doing it yourself

Unless you're a contractor yourself, chances are good that you'll want to hire a professional to oversee your bathroom remodel. While you might be able to work with him or her to save some money by doing small parts of the project yourself (like removal of old tile or painting), you could create huge expense either now or in the future if you botch the plumbing or rewire the room incorrectly.

..Wait! You’re not going to hire a service provider without checking Angie’s List first are you? Join Now!

Monday, April 1, 2013

10 Home-Maintenance Tips for Spring


main yard 3 house exterior after

After a long, dark winter, spring's bright sun and warm winds are, well, a breath of fresh air. The only downside? All that sunshine spotlights your leaf-filled gutters, cracked sidewalks and the dead plants in last year's flower beds. Dwight Barnett, a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors, shared this checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get your chores done quickly, leaving you time to go outside and play in the sunshine.

  • Check for loose or leaky gutters. Improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. Make sure downspouts drain away from the foundation and are clear and free of debris.
  • Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects.
  • Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.
  • From the ground, examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter. If your home has an older roof covering, you may want to start a budget for replacement. The summer sun can really damage roof shingles. Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced. Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.
  • Examine the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.
  • Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home's foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.
  • Remove firewood stored near the home. Firewood should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground at least 2 feet from the structure.
  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage. Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely the pipe inside the home is damaged and will need to be replaced. While you're at it, check the garden hose for dry rot.
  • Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Change interior filters on a regular basis.
  • Check your gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment to make sure it is ready for summer use. Clean equipment and sharp cutting blades will make yardwork easier.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Understanding Alternative Energy Technology

In recent years, new energy technologies designed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels have started appearing in homes. As they become more popular, you’re more and more likely to encounter homes equipped with systems like geothermal and solar panels. Here’s a primer on those and other lesser-known technologies so you can better explain the different types of systems to your clients.

Solar energy.
Solar panel systems come in a wide array of configurations, including panels that mount on a home’s roof and panels that mount on poles outside the home.
Grid-tie solar systems connect to the local electrical utility’s grid to power the home at night, or at times when the home is drawing more electricity than its solar system can produce. In some areas,

grid-tie systems allow the homeowner to sell power back to the utility when their system produces a surplus.

Off-grid systems are designed to provide a home’s electrical supply without the need for a connection to the power grid. Such systems include a battery bank that recharges during the day and provides power for the home at night. These systems are ideal for remote properties.

The high cost of home solar systems once put them out of reach of many homeowners. But in recent years, solar leasing and power purchase agreements (PPAs) have made solar a much more affordable option.

Solar lease agreements allow a homeowner to rent solar systems and avoid the high upfront costs. In a power purchase agreement, the homeowner lets the provider install a solar system on their home and then purchases the electricity generated by the system from the provider. The availability of solar leasing and PPAs varies depending on the home’s location, but both are seen as more affordable options than purchasing a solar system, which can run well into five figures.

You may have also heard of “passive solar” systems which use the sun’s light directly to provide home heating or hot water. Passive solar systems do not generate electricity, but they can be employed to reduce a home’s overall energy use.

Geothermal energy.
A geothermal system employs special pipes that are buried deep underground where the earth’s temperature is constant. Depending on the location, that temperature typically ranges from 50°–60°F, which is warmer than the outside temperature in the winter and cooler than the outside temperature in the summer.

Therefore, a geothermal system can be used both to cool a home in the summer and to warm a home during winter.

When used for home heating, the system works by circulating fluid through the underground pipes to absorb heat. The warmed fluid returns to the surface where it is used to heat the home. There are different types of geothermal systems, but they all employ a similar process of heat exchange.

In the summer, the process is reversed—the fluid absorbs heat from the home at the surface before being circulated underground, where the cool earth acts as a heat sink, cooling the fluid.

Like solar, the upfront cost of installing a geothermal system has been a barrier to widespread adoption of the technology. However, new companies that provide specialized financing have sprung up, putting such systems within reach of homeowners interested in reducing their energy use.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tips to Enhance Your Curb Appeal


curb appeal
Whether you’re prepping your home for sale, or just want it to look good, don’t forget about the exterior — especially the front yard and door!
Here are some great tips from home stagers and curb appeal experts on how to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Walk to the curb

The first order of business: walk to the curb or street and look at your home from the road.
This will probably be the buyers’ or the buyer agent’s first, real-live impression of your house. Take the time to review the way your front yard looks. Does the front door look fresh and inviting? Is the landing or porch neat and tidy? These are the details that can make a huge difference for that ever-important first impression.
And if you sense something’s off, clip home improvement ideas from books, magazines or professionals who can really help you maximize the appeal of your home and get it ready for the market!
One professional, Michelle Molinari, has the perfect way to consistently spruce up exteriors of listings. She adds flowering white flowers to yards in Louisiana because they “always look great on photos,” she said.
Molinari also recommends a layer of mulch to finish out garden spaces and — a fun little tip — she suggests coordinating the mulch color with the roof color. The match will make the entire front appear more complimentary to the eye.
In lieu of green grass in the U.S. Southwest, xeriscaping is used because of the way this water-conserving method makes use of natural landscape items like rocks and desert-friendly plants.

The money shot: Your front door

One big item: Don’t forget the front door!
A brightly painted front door and decorative house numbers lend to this home’s curb appeal.
Some home stagers recommend using the same exterior color for the front door, but I prefer to a color to complement exterior house colors. For instance, a Tudor-style house with cream walls and grey trim would be great with a hydrangea blue on the door. A gray wall Colonial with white trim would look stunning with a black door. Most of the paint manufacturers have suggested exterior combinations (walls, trim and doors) to help sellers determine which color works well with the exterior paint colors and style of their house.
In addition to the front door, potted plants and tables and chairs are great additions for a front porch. For the smaller landing, Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging in Dallas, Texas suggests a pot of rosemary by the front door. What a great way to have potential buyers enter your home after taking a nice whiff of rosemary at the door, signaling their welcome.

Numbers add a punch

Last, but not least, don’t neglect the house numbers or lighting. House numbers are best seen with dark numbers on a light background and are very important when selling! Ensure there is enough light to read them comfortably from the road. And if the front of the house is hard to see from the road, place another set of numbers closer to the road so buyers don’t miss the house!
Hopefully all of these tips will help your home make a great first impression!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Existing Home Sales Hit 3 Year High, Home Prices Rise:


U.S. home resales (the largest segment of the housing market) hit a three-year high in February and prices jumped, adding to signs of an acceleration in the housing market recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday existing home sales increased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.98 million units last month, the highest level since November 2009. The January sales pace was revised upward to 4.94 million units from the previously reported 4.92 million units.

The median home sales price in February rose 11.6 percent from a year ago to $173,6000.

In a separate report, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that New Home Starts rose. Building Permits for new construction approached a five-year high.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Consider these 4 things before signing on the dotted line

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a home. Making a list of must-haves should be the first step in the home buying process, but what about those items beyond the “must-haves?” Once you’ve found a home you think you want to buy, there are still some things you should think twice about before closing. Buyer’s remorse is real, and many new homebuyers find themselves facing its effects, and you don’t want to be one of them.

Consider these 4 things before signing on the dotted line:

  1. Is the home too expensive for you? The amount you can qualify for and what you can actually afford can really be two different amounts. You constantly hear about people being “house poor,” meaning that they spend so much money on their mortgage every month that they have little money for anything else. If this is your first home, it’s important to think about the expenses you haven’t had to pay while renting that you may incur when purchasing a home. There may be sacrifices that you have to make as far as your budget goes. Are you prepared to make them? Don’t establish your home buying budget on what your lender says you can afford. Center it on what you honestly know you can afford and stick to it.
  2. Is the location right? A good location should be toward the top of your list of “must-haves.” However, a good location doesn’t necessary mean it’s the right location for you and your family. Do you want or need space to play? Does the location make sense for your work commute? Are the schools in the location good schools you want to send your children to? Do you want to be near stores and other conveniences or would you prefer to be closer to the suburbs? Are you part of an HOA, and are you okay with that? If you compromise on your location, give it serious thought.
  3. Are you purchasing the home with intent to sell or refinance it within a short period of time? This was how so many people got in trouble and upside down in their homes in the first place – buying homes they couldn’t necessarily afford after the short-term financing terms changed, and assuming they would be able to sell or refinance the house. If you are purchasing a home, and you’re not an investor or contractor, plan on purchasing a home you and your family could live comfortably in for at least 5 years.
  4. Are you unsure about your job security? While this economy can be unpredictable, and job security is becoming more and more a thing of the past, if you are trying to get into a home because you are concerned that an upcoming layoff might disqualify you for a home loan, maybe you should put off purchasing a new home until you are no longer concerned about an interruption of income. If you’re confident in your current career, can get work with another company easily, or have a large cushion of savings that could handle a temporary interruption of income, then proceed with the purchase. However, if you are seriously concerned about the short-term stability of your job, seriously consider whether purchasing a home is right for you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Is it time to move or improve?


4 factors to consider before committing to a large renovation project

<a href="" target="_blank">Dining room addition</a> image via Shutterstock.
At some point, you may find that your home doesn't work well for you anymore. You may need more space or a reconfiguration of the floor plan. The decision to remodel or move can be relatively easy in some cases and difficult in others.

In one example, homeowners in Berkeley, Calif., needed more space for their growing family. They looked at more expensive houses to buy instead of facing the hassle of renovating. They discovered that they couldn't afford to buy a larger home in a prime location. But they could afford to add enough space to their home to make it work for them. Luckily, their home was already in their preferred location.

Since they owned one of the smaller homes in the neighborhood, they could afford to invest in an expansion without overimproving for the neighborhood. They intended to stay in the home indefinitely.

Another couple with children, living in an Oakland, Calif., neighborhood they liked, talked to an architect about redesigning the space in their home to make it more user-friendly for their family. The plan didn't give them exactly what they wanted. However, it would be an improvement over the existing floor plan, but at great expense. The plan didn't include an expansion of the living space, so the owners would have ended up with a very expensive home for its size. It would have been overimproved for the neighborhood. They wouldn't have recouped the investment when they sold unless the property appreciated enormously over a decade or so.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Before you make a commitment to a large renovation, take a look at homes for sale in areas where you'd like to live that offer the space and amenities you want or need. Depending on the projected cost of the renovation, it may be less expensive and easier in the long run to sell your current home and buy one that better suits your current lifestyle.

Given the limited amount of homes for sale in many areas around the country, this sort of a move may require an interim move to a rental. Offers made contingent on the sale of another home won't fly in a high-demand, low-inventory neighborhood where you have to compete with other buyers.
An interim move would be no more inconvenient than staying in your house while it's being renovated, although it would be less expensive. A huge renovation, like the one described above, would have required the family to more out for six to 12 months. This means paying the mortgage while you pay for the renovation and for the interim rental.

It's not a sin to treat yourself to a costly renovation as long as you understand that what you're paying for is a lifestyle you desire, and you may not be able to recoup the costs when you sell.
Smaller remodel projects to make your home more enjoyable, like a new master bathroom or eat-in kitchen, could be a lot less expensive and disruptive than moving. And it would make your home more marketable when you do move.

Just make sure to do tasteful upgrades that will have a broad-based appeal. Ask your real estate agent to give you input. You are doing the work for yourself, but you don't want your home to be one that buyers wish you hadn't touched. Bad renovations don't increase the sale price.
Make sure that your contractor takes out building permits for work that requires it. Lenders' appraisers often don't give credit for an addition as livable square feet if the work was done without a permit.

THE CLOSING: Don't do a complete bathroom or kitchen remodel if you're planning to sell soon. You'll improve the net proceeds from the sale if you restrict your fix-up work to cosmetic improvements.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is it OK to remove gutters from a house?

By Peter Hotton

Globe Correspondent /  March 13, 2013      

Q. We live in a one-level, ranch-style home. I can no longer go through another winter of frozen gutters, ice dams, and water finding a way into our home. I would like to remove the gutters from the house. Would this solve any or all of these problems? Are there any drawbacks to removing them? Are there other solutions not so expensive? PAUL, from Winchester
A. It is possible to take off gutters without dire results, but the presence of or lack of them does not cause ice dams. The only cause of ice dams (and their leaks) is a warm roof, although in some rare cases people who have raked their roofs free of snow claim that it stops ice dams and leaks. My house, nearly 250 years old, does not have gutters on the main part, but has heavy insulation on the attic floor, good ventilation from soffit vents, and a high-up roof vent, making a cold roof, and I have not had ice dams or leaks from ice dams in the 49 years I have lived in it.
As I said, it is possible to take off the gutters, but before you do, consider these three things: 1. The position of the gutters: If water drips too close to the front of the gutter, water will overflow, causing huge icicles. If water drips too close to the back of the gutter, water will overflow, running down the wall, under the roof overhang, and into the house. Correcting these defects can help stop the ice dams and leaks. 2. There must be an overhang of 6 inches and more, to allow dripping water to clear the house. 3. There must be a clear area on the ground free of plants and usually filled with crushed stone, for the water to drip on and be absorbed into the earth, or diverted away from the foundation by a concrete platform or apron.
Any drawbacks on removing gutters? Yes, two: 1. A two-sloped roof, like a gabled roof, will allow a lot of water to run over each edge, perhaps too much. A hip roof, like mine, has four slopes from a center peak, allowing half the water to run over each edge as the edges of a gabled roof. 2. A lot of water falling on the ground may allow it to penetrate the earth and cause basement leaks.
So, Paul, these are all considerations and caveats to think of before taking off the gutters.
Echoes from the Home Show
The New England Home Show last month at the World Trade Center had the usual spiels of everything to build with, but was a revelation to the Handyman’s four days in the show, his 47th straight. Many of the booths featured good-natured spiels, not trying to sell you anything but talk about new and interesting things to make life more fun.
One area included an entire double aisle of woodworkers who talked readily about their work and the fine furniture they produced.
It was a fun show, more like a carnival. And there, in his familiar booth was our friend Joe Cavallaro, the Bulkhead Man, with a new product called the Generator Locker. With more and longer power failures in New England, Joe figured a locker, or steel “hut” would be good to keep a home generator safe and secure.  So he built one, and sold it before the show ended, he said. 
Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to end of story marker

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4 musts when hiring a home improvement contractor


Monday, March 11, 2013

See the "Tiny House"

Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 Worcester Spring Home Show


Date:3/8/2013  -  3/10/2013
Address:50 Foster Street, Worcester, MA 01608
Location:Worcester, MA 
Hours:Friday, 4-8 PM, Saturday, 10 AM - 7 PM, Sunday 11 AM - 5 PM
Cost/Cover:Free with pass
Web Page:

Details:The 2013 Spring Home Show will feature over 250 companies displaying all the latest products and services for your home, condo or apartment. Remodeling ? Renovating ? Refinancing ? Looking for ways to save energy ? It’s all at the Spring Home Show.

With spring right around the corner the Home Show is the perfect place to shop for all your needs. Many exhibitors offer money saving show specials and discounts.

There will be demonstrations, prizes and hundreds of giveaways including daily drawings for a 55" LED TV.

You can get a Free Pass for two adults at

Event is on:Fri, Sat, Sun
Audience:All Welcome
Sponsored By:Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Central Mass. 
Submitted by:Jeffrey Davis 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New mortgage affordability rules offer hope

Current standards too strict for their own good
By Jack Guttentag
Inman News®
"What is your assessment of the new set of regulations issued by CFPB?"

My quick reaction to the hundreds of new mortgage rules recently issued by CFPB, contained in 804 densely packed pages, is that the agency has done a creditable job in an incredibly difficult situation. The rules cover a lot of territory, but those pertaining to borrower affordability probably have attracted the most attention. This article will comment on the new affordability rules, leaving other important issues for future columns.

The regulatory focus on affordability reflects our recent experience with a housing bubble -- a period of self-reinforcing home price escalation. The bubble induced lenders to liberalize mortgage underwriting rules, relax enforcement of the rules, and approve loans to borrowers who could not afford them. The bubble burst early in 2007 when house prices stopped rising and started to decline.
The Dodd-Frank bill passed in 2010 was a reaction to the excesses of the bubble period. Among other things it authorized a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which it charged (among other things) with formulating and clarifying mortgage affordability rules. Dodd-Frank also required CFPB to define "qualified mortgages," which are mortgages that lenders can make with no or minimal risk of legal liability for violating the affordable loan rules.

In my view, the Dodd-Frank approach to home mortgages was a knee-jerk reaction that was ill-advised. A nationwide housing bubble is a rare episode in our financial history. One has to go back to the 1920s to find anything at all comparable. While revamping the rules to prevent a recurrence of that event, even if it happens only once a generation, might make sense if the new rules were a standby, to be applied only when the situation demanded them, that is not the case. The new rules will take effect Jan. 10, 2014. They were ill-advised because the problem today is the opposite of the one for which the rules were intended.

When the bubble burst early in 2007, the excessive liberality in mortgage lending practice was quickly replaced by its opposite: excessive restraint. The problem today is that many perfectly good loans are not being made because of the heightened risk aversion of lenders, and the tightened affordability rules already in place.

The lender response reflects the heavy losses realized on loans made during the bubble period, plus the fines and legal expenses they have incurred in its aftermath. The tightened affordability rules by regulators and by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, issued after the bubble burst, were based on the premise that "although we should have done this five years ago, better late than never." In fact, never would have been better than late.

A central characteristic of the current affordability rules is their rigidity. A loan applicant who does not measure up on the affordability scale will be rejected, regardless of the strength of other transaction features. As an important example, I have received scores of letters from self-employed borrowers with high credit scores who were willing to put as much as 40 percent down but could not get a loan because the income they were able to document was viewed as insufficient.

Rejecting applicants who have a past record of meeting obligations and are willing to bet on their ability to afford a loan by placing substantial equity at risk is absurd. CFPB was obliged under Dodd-Frank to set new affordability rules despite the fact that the existing rules are unduly restrictive. Its implicit challenge has been to minimize the extent to which the new rules make a bad situation worse.

From all indications, CFPB has done this pretty well. It has declared that qualified loans cannot have any of the following provisions: interest-only; balloon payment; negative amortization; term exceeding 30 years; zero documentation; lender fees exceeding 3 percent of the loan amount (unless that amount is less than $100,000); or low "teaser" rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). These options will either disappear, or be substantially overpriced. However, very few loans are being made today with any of these features, so that the loss is small.

Furthermore, there are several glimmers of hope that the new rules may actually alleviate some of the excessive stringency in the current market. The rule on balloon payments is subject to an exception wherein such loans are qualified if they are made by small banks in rural areas. This exception was required by Dodd-Frank and may or may not reflect an intention by CFPB to carve out additional exceptions in the future.

A further glimmer is that the new rule says that "no-doc" loans cannot be qualified, which is very different from declaring that qualified loans must be "full-doc." There is a range of documentation options between these two extremes. These include stated-income/documented assets, which was widely used before the crisis to qualify self-employed borrowers. The option disappeared in the regulatory excesses of the aftermath, which made full documentation the universal rule.

This raises the possibility that CFPB at some future time might define loans with only partial documentation as qualified if they meet certain conditions. To have a significant impact, however, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have to do the same.

The writer is professor of finance emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Comments and questions can be left at