August 1 2009

Need to Move to Where the Jobs Are? Orlando May Be It

by jim

Need to Move to Where the Jobs Are? How about Orlando? Arguably the nation’s most popular recreation destination, Orlando, Florida no longer relies solely on its theme parks to support its stable economy. Today, life sciences, digital media, and healthcare markets are a hot ticket in this attractive inland city. In addition to the aforementioned fields, medical research is becoming increasingly concentrated in Orlando, as are entertainment subsidiaries (Which kind? Animation firms, of course!).

So where does someone looking to establish (or revamp) their career in Orlando live? There are numerous affordable housing options available, but MI Homes has one of the best deals Orlando can offer. Bella Vida, a community of single and two-story detached residences, currently has homes starting at $179,000. The builders constructed Bella Vida with young professionals and families in mind, so those seeking a new career in Orlando should feel right at home.

In a state notorious for its high-priced housing market, this is a convenient, affordable solution for those looking to transplant. But there are other options as well; Sawgrass, a MI Homes community located in South Orlando, is similarly priced. In keeping with the Florida landscape and ambiance, this neighborhood offers marsh-like community lakes, a park, and a clubhouse/pool. Like Bella Vida, singles, families, and even empty nesters/retirees can enjoy what Sawgrass has to offer. 

If you’re looking for a new lease on life in one of the most resilient local economies in the U.S., Orlando may be the place for you. For information on homes for sale in Orlando communities, call (407) 281-1131 (Bella Vida) or (407) 858-0309 (Sawgrass).

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August 1 2009

Top Green Building States

by jim

Green Living

Looking to move to a green home state, or wondering if the state where you currently live is green-home friendly? Data released by the State Environmental Resource Center (SERC) reveals which states have adopted green building legislation – and some of the findings may come as a surprise.

To start, we need to define some of the terms cited within the report. The data used two specific organizations to measure each state’s green friendliness; first, The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System; second, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The former encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of various tools and criteria, while the latter promotes energy efficiency through a model code system.

So, which states are to be praised for showing deference to the aforementioned systems? First up, those states who offer tax incentives for green buildings in compliance with the LEED rating system: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The higher the LEED rating, the more the tax credit. What’s more, two of these states, Maryland and Massachusetts, also offer tax incentives for green buildings that don’t check themselves with against the LEED ratings; so long as builders meet certain green criteria, a tax credit is still there for the taking. One additional state that passed similar legislation is New York.

NABH Green Homes

In some cases, there is no tangible reward for building green; many states are now requiring that certain structures abide by strict environmentally-friendly guidelines. Primarily, buildings that are subject to the mandates are those funded either partially or in full by the state itself; so, imposing green regulation on these specific buildings is not infringing on the rights of private citizens. In addition to many of the states listed above, states that have adopted these policies include Arizona, Connecticut, California, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, and Washington. Again, this does not affect private homes; however, green buildings affect communities in a positive manner, whether they are intended for round-the-clock living or not. 

How about that IECC system? This may come as a surprise: As far back as 2003, Kansas became the first state to designate the IECC as the thermal efficiency standard for new commercial and industrial buildings. While this did not specifically address residential homes at the time, common sense dictates that the newly built dwellings in Kansas may one day follow suit.

 

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August 1 2009

High Rise Living: Is it a Thing of the Past?

by jim

Chic, high rise living was once a standard-bearer for cosmopolitan populations in large cities. From Los Angeles to Miami to New York City and Toronto, everyone who was anyone chose a high rise over other living options.

Today, urban living is experiencing something of a comeback; however, it seems that townhomes and condos have become the preferred attached product of many single residents, couples, and small families. Home builders are no doubt capitalizing on this; while downtown, live-work spaces are indeed gaining popularity in a number of regions, they are also quite successfully edging out their predecessor: the big city high rise. 

If you hold on to a dream of high rise living, don’t fear: It is still possible! Need some guidance/inspiration? Some of the most impressive examples currently available in high rise homes are described here:

Little Tokyo Lofts, Los Angeles: Ever drive through LA and wistfully imagine that a historic structure would convert to an apartment building – so you could move in? Hammer Ventures had the foresight to do that very thing, opting to utilize the old Westinghouse building for Little Tokyo Lofts. The 161 living spaces range from 653 to 1,800 sq. ft., and the two-story spaces boast 30 ft. ceilings. Attractively priced, these lofts were designed with the artistic personality in mind. For more information, call (213) 626-6400.

111 Central Park North, New York City: Sure, you want to live in New York City…but the thought of looking out your window and seeing grass and trees (rather than cars and blinding lights) is appealing too. For that reason, Athena Homes erected 111 Central Park North, a gorgeous skyscraper that houses luxurious living spaces averaging at 1,900 sq. ft. If you’re looking for a quintessential New York lifestyle and you can afford a seven figure price tag (the view alone is worth every penny!), you may want to ask what 111 Central Park North has available. To learn more, call (212) 381-2671.    

Festival Tower, Toronto: A city that has grown leaps and bounds, Toronto is becoming a popular destination for those looking to plant their roots up north. For career-minded individuals those who make this move, there are few options more appealing than Festival Tower. Not only is the sight of the building spectacular, but the amenities – including a pool house, cinema, fitness center, lounge, terrace, and private club spanning two floors – make this an amazing place to call home. If interested, inquire at (416) 203-2020.

Is high rise living a thing of the past? It doesn’t look like it! The only way to find out if it’s for you is to take the plunge and tour one of their spaces.

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August 1 2009

Quaint Southern Living at Briar Chapel by M/I Homes

by jim

We’ve touched on the amenities of the MI Homes communities in Raleigh; however, one that warrants its own time in the spotlight is Briar Chapel. For buyers who value quaint features in a new home community, the beautifully-constructed bike paths and boardwalks boasted by Briar Chapel are only the beginning.

What else is so special about Briar Chapel? First off, nothing conjures a Southern charm atmosphere like a beautiful porch – and many of the Briar Chapel homes have them. Three of the home plans (Holloway, Harrison, and Hillcrest) feature lovely front porches that are perfect for snuggling, sipping, and sharing on a warm summer evening. Huge family rooms, various wood flooring tones, and gorgeous master bedroom paneling are just a few of the appealing features in many Briar Chapel homes.

Sure, home designs are a top priority – but how about socializing? If common gathering areas are important to you, Briar Chapel may be right up your alley. In addition to the outdoor features already mentioned, the neighborhood also offers a fitness facility, outside entertainment areas, and two sparkling community pools. For families who crave a place to meet up with friends, could there by a more ideal environment? In fact, the creators of Briar Chapel say that this peaceful, “mountain lifestyle” population can take part in activities specifically designed for residents of all ages. Although a majority of communities near Raleigh are family-friendly, that’s hard to beat!

For those relocating from another state, the built-in community support of Briar Chapel can be positively invaluable; however, even North Carolina natives can appreciate the serene, retreat-like ambiance of a friendly neighborhood tucked into rolling green hills. For more details on Briar Chapel homes, stop into their office at 1269 Great Ridge Parkway, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Hours are Mon-Fri 12pm-6pm; Sat 11am-6pm; Sun 1pm-6pm. Or, call 919-942-1220 for more information.

 

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August 1 2009

New Homes With Retro Feel: Yes, They Do Exist!

by jim

It’s no secret that those who have an affinity for older, more distinct looking estates tend to avoid brand new homes. Unfortunately, most home buyers who insist on an older home for the sake of that vintage appearance are oblivious to the fact that it is possible to find a newly-built residence with an authentically retro feel.

Sure, you’ve probably heard that claim before, and were perhaps disappointed to find that the “traditional” or “classic” home you inquired about was a poorly executed fabrication. Let’s face it: Some archetypal designs are more authentic than others. Case in point: Two refreshingly retro communities from MI Homes, the Centennial 60’s and Centennial 70’s Homesites.

The names say it all: From the grounds of the communities to the home plans themselves, both of these phases are the real deal. The builder took a cue from those features that we’ve come to appreciate (and miss!) the most from small-town neighborhoods. These are the touches we associate with apple pie Americana and our favorite old TV shows: large front yards; facades that boast shingles or brick in eye-pleasing patterns; and, of course, beautifully-shaped windows. Even the paint colors – gold and avocado of the 60’s, and the coffee-inspired tones of the 70’s – remain consistent with the minimalist designs that enjoyed a heyday in these decades. Not your thing? Not to worry! Many of the plans feature softer paint tone options as well.

The builder calls these two communities reminiscent of a “simpler time,” and they’ve carried out the vision masterfully. For instance, what would a neighborhood of days gone by be without gathering areas that evoke the ambiance of those decades? For those who value the full package, the Centennial Homesites share a clubhouse and pool that could easily pass as a country club scene in a 1960’s film. Just off to the side, a modern playground offers the safety of current amenities, with the charm of an antiquated park setting.

Descriptions and photos may be helpful, but a visit to the Centennial Homesites can instantly transport you to the decade of your choice. Check them out at 14825 Rosemary Way Drive, Huntersville, NC 28078. Hours are Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, and Sun 12pm-6pm. The office can be reached at 704-766-0801.

 

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August 1 2009

Should You Purchase Builder Upgrades?

by jim

It’s no secret that upgrades are the eternal quandary of the new home buyer. In fact, the upgrade dilemma often comes with an added twist: Sometimes, buyers know which upgrades they want; however, they may be unsure whether to purchase them from the builder, or seek the assistance of an outside contractor once they have moved into the home.

The fact of the matter is, purchasing upgrades from the builder directly can increase the value of your home for future resale. However, purchasing materials from another source, and hiring a reputable contractor to do installations, can also be a good investment. The trick is to select your upgrades carefully.

For example, you may wish to purchase builder upgrades on features that cannot easily be altered once the home is built. Most often, this includes structural changes: garages, porches, and electrical or plumbing additions. Even cabinetry upgrades from the builder can be cost-effective, in light of the fact that performing the renovation in the future may require the temporary removal of many existing kitchen features (countertops, backsplash, and appliances, to name a few).

Speaking of countertops: Should you upgrade them with the builder, too? Some argue that if a homeowner intends to keep the existing cabinetry in place, upgrading the countertops with the builder is not always the best choice. Often, new countertops can be installed by another source at a more reasonable rate down the road. Another plus to going this route: Upgrading the countertops typically necessitates replacing your backsplash. In some cases, an outside contractor may be willing to cut you a deal on the two installations.

Not crazy about an abundance of tile flooring? If you’re dying to replace it with wood laminate down the road, and are handy enough to DIY, experts recommend you take it on to save money. How about elegant trim features, such as crown molding? The same guideline applies.

Cleverly selecting your new home upgrades can actually be easy, and the results can certainly be enjoyable. Plus, should you ever opt to place your home back on the market, you can no doubt reap the benefits of your wise investments.

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August 1 2009

Successful New Home Shopping

by jim

Whether your new home search begins online or with the guidance of an agent, it can be easy to let “the good ones” slip by. Sometimes, potential buyers view so many properties that they forget which ones they liked best (and why). This can even be the case when one is looking through various new home communities. That said, how can you stay on the right track towards finding the home that best fits your needs? 

One way to ensure that the home you purchase is the home you really want: Commit yourself to circumventing a prolonged home search. What does this mean? One analogy is the shopping mall method; buyers should almost always avoid it. Never heard of this? Think of it this way: You know what you want (let’s say it’s a black dress). You know that the mall is the best place to find that dress. At the first store, you find two or three dresses that fit your criteria: the color you need, perfect for the occasion, and competitively priced. So, you choose one of these; right?

Unfortunately, many shoppers do not. Instead, they continue to trek through the mall – and not necessarily for the right reasons. The fact is, most people who scour the mall for hours on end do so for the mere sake of continuing the search. It’s the “thrill of the hunt” principle. But chances are, shoppers like this will either a.) Go back to the original store and purchase one of the dresses they tried on in the first place (sure, they get the dress they want, but they waste time that could have been spent more productively; or, b.) Forget how much they liked the original dresses, and buy a less favorable one from a store at the other end of the mall – simply because they are too tired to go keep going.

The point is that searching for a home is nearly the same – except, a home is by far a more important purchase than a piece of apparel. Looking for a home with the shopping mall method is not only risky – it can result in a grave disappointment. When you find that perfect home (or dress!), it’s better to go with your gut and take the plunge. Chances are, you will be far more satisfied with your decision in the long-term. 

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July 31 2009

Searching For A Home Online

by jim

When the search is on for a new home, some first-time buyers find it to be a daunting task. After all, with nearly 80% of home searches beginning on the Internet, many people simply don’t know where to begin. Truth be told, this can actually be to your advantage. Whether you stay within one comprehensive homebuyer site – or, find yourself navigating through scores of online listings – you are likely to encounter a number of properties that pique your interest.

The only pitfall to searching for a home online is that many prospective buyers manage to lose their favorite listings. How does this happen? The same way that surfing the net for any type of information can result in wasted time. By clicking further and further away from the pages you want to remember, you can water down your search and end up with an exercise in futility.

Fortunately, it’s also just as easy to avoid this trap. The best preventive measure for searching new homes for sale is to bookmark the pages you wish to come back to. Sure, you’ll extend your browser’s “favorites” list; but, the valuable information for the homes that excite you (such as addresses, photos, and agent contacts), will remain right at your disposal.

Of course, your next step will be to contact listing agents for the homes that you want to view in person. But with all those pages bookmarked, where should you start? One way to go is by categorizing your favorites into groups, based on your personal criteria: For example, List A may be comprised of homes within your top location choice; while List B can contain homes with the features you desire the most (swimming pools, double fireplaces, or sunken tubs). Breaking the lists up into groups can streamline the walk-through process, and ensure that you have the opportunity to see the homes you truly want to see – because you wisely selected them yourself. 

 

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