Home Is Where the History Is

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day next week, thousands of them will flock to places like Mount Vernon, Monticello and Peacefield to learn and understand more about our country’s history and the men and women who shaped its future. The homes of founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were more than shelter; they were places of respite, reflection and inspiration.

“Homeownership is an investment in our future, but it’s also a gateway to our past,” says NAR President Moe Veissi. “The homes of our country’s founders offer insights into their characters and values, and reflect the spirits of their owners, just as our homes do for us today.”

In some ways, historic homeowners bear little resemblance to the homeowners of today. George Washington inherited Mount Vernon when he was 20; only 4 percent of recent home buyers were between the ages of 18-24, according to the 2011 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. John Adams was born in the house that would remain in the Adams family for four generations. Today, fewer than 3 percent of families in this country have received their primary residence as an inheritance, according to a recent Survey of Consumer Finances published by the Federal Reserve Board.

Women’s rights to own property in America’s early days were often based on their relationships with men, so it’s not surprising that many women today view homeownership as its own form of independence, with single women representing more than one-fifth of all home buyers in the current market.

Homeowners across U.S. history do share some common ground, of course. Most of the founding families lived out their lives close to where they were born, and the same is true today. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 60 percent of Americans currently live in the state in which they were born, and NAR research shows that the typical buyer moves only 12 miles from his or her previous residence.

“I am as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello,” said Thomas Jefferson of his home. Although today’s economic environment has postponed homeownership for some, numerous surveys show that most Americans still aspire to homeownership. In the NAR Profile, a full 60 percent of recent first-time home buyers cited the desire to own a home of their own as the primary reason for purchasing a home.

“There’s a reason homeownership is called the American Dream,” says Veissi. “As we celebrate our country’s independence and reflect on its past, REALTORS® remain committed to keeping the dream of homeownership alive for generations of Americans to come.”

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. For more information, visit www.realtor.org.


RISMedia: http://rismedia.com/2012-06-28/home-is-where-the-history-is/

Do Your Part: Green Myth-Busters

Forget “Ghostbusters.” Today, I’m fighting popular green myths to help you get started on going green. With all the misinformation out there, it’s important to zero in on effective ways to Do Your Part to save money, save resources, and live healthier. Here are my Top 7 Green Myth-Busters.

1) Organic is the only way to go
False! Organic is one good option when food shopping because it means the food or produce was not created or grown with synthetic chemical pesticides or insecticides. However, locally grown foods are another important way to be eco-friendly. Those foods are from farms within a few hundred miles and are not shipped from around the world to get to your table.

2) If it says it’s green, it must be green
Not quite. Terms like “eco-friendly,” “green,” and even “natural” are not regulated and have no defined standards. “Biodegradable” is another. Most products destined for the landfill will not biodegrade in our lifetime. Go to DoYourPart.com/Columns for specific information on labels you can trust.

3) If you don’t have a hybrid, you aren’t being eco-friendly
Not so fast. If you need a new car, hybrids are a smart option. If your car doesn’t need to be upgraded, you can make it more fuel-efficient. Getting your car regularly serviced, keeping your tires properly inflated, and consolidating your driving trips will maximize fuel efficiency. Also, when you do decide to buy, fuel efficiency should be top of mind.

4) Disinfectants can’t be natural
Not true. Unless you’re Oscar the Grouch, germs probably aren’t your thing, but you don’t have to resort to chemical warfare to disinfect. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are safer and inexpensive options. Vinegar can be used on everything except marble. Hydrogen peroxide is ideal in the bathroom for fighting mold and mildew.

5) Incandescent bulbs are going away
Stop hoarding because incandescent bulbs are not going away. While some manufacturers are phasing out certain models, many are being replaced with more energy efficient versions. The lighting will be the same, the bulbs will just last longer.

6) What goes down the storm drain will be filtered
Not so. Everything from excess fertilizer to used motor oil can wind up in storm drains. Unlike what goes down the drain at home, this stuff isn’t filtered before heading into our streams, creeks, and eventually our oceans. It’s critical to properly dispose of household hazardous waste.

7) If an electronic is off, it isn’t using power
Wrong. ‘Phantom power’ is the energy used by electronics and appliances that aren’t even on and adds up to 10 percent of the energy we use at home. Devices with a remote or continuous display fall into this category, as do most chargers. Unplug your devices or use a power strip or similar device that will let you cut off power with the touch of a switch.

Clearing up the confusion when it comes to going green will help you cut down on wasted resources and money. That way, you can begin to Do Your Part today.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of “Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living” available at DoYourPart.com.


Distributed by MCT Information Services. Article reprinted from RISMedia: http://rismedia.com URL to article: http://rismedia.com/2012-06-12/do-your-part-green-myth-busters/


Spring Sales: Home Prices Rise in April

Data through April 2012, released by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that on average home prices increased 1.3 percent in the month of April for both the 10- and 20-City Composites. This comes after seven consecutive months of falling home prices as measured by both indices.

April’s data indicate that on an annual basis home prices fell by 2.2 percent for the 10-City Composite and by 1.9 percent for the 20-City Composites, versus April 2011. While still negative, this is an improvement over the annual rates of -2.9 percent and -2.6 percent recorded for the month of March 2012. Both Composites and 18 of the 20 MSAs saw increases in annual returns in April compared to those published for March; only Detroit and New York fared worse in April, posting annual returns of +1.2 percent and -3.8 percent respectively, falling below their March returns of +3.9 percent and -3.0 percent. For the seventh consecutive month, Atlanta posted the only double-digit negative annual return at -17.0 percent, its 22nd consecutive month of negative annual returns. Ten of the 20 MSAs saw positive annual returns – Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Tampa and Washington D.C. No cities posted new lows in April 2012.

In April 2012, both Composites were up by 1.3 percent in the month, resulting in annual returns of -2.2 percent and -1.9 percent, respectively.

“With April 2012 data, we finally saw some rising home prices,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “On a monthly basis, 19 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites rose in April over March. Detroit was the only city that saw prices fall, down 3.6 percent. In addition, 18 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites saw better annual rates of return. It has been a long time since we enjoyed such broad- based gains. While one month does not make a trend, particularly during seasonally strong buying months, the combination of rising positive monthly index levels and improving annual returns is a good sign. The 10-City and 20-City Composites each rose by 1.3 percent for the month and posted annual rates of return of -2.2 percent and -1.9 percent compared to April 2011, better than the -2.9 percent and -2.6 percent annual rates seen in March 2012.

“We were hoping to see some improvement in April. First, changes in home prices are very seasonal, with the spring and early summer being the most active buying months. Second, while not as strong and we believe less reliable, the seasonally adjusted data were also largely positive, a possible sign that the increase in prices may be due to more than just the expected surge in spring sales. Additionally, the last few months have seen increased sales and housing starts amidst a lot of talk of better housing markets, so some price gains were anticipated.

“Detroit and New York stand out this month as the only two MSAs that saw their annual rates of return deteriorate compared to March. While Detroit posted a positive annual rate of 1.2 percent, it was still well below March’s +3.9 percent; New York was -3.8 percent in April down from -3.0 percent in March. Detroit was also the only city to show a monthly decline, down 3.6 percent. All other MSAs improved versus March.

“Atlanta and Phoenix, two markets we have followed closely in 2012 for their contrasting trends, have continued along their opposite paths. Atlanta continues to be the only city with double-digit negative annual returns, -17.0 percent, whereas Phoenix fared the best in terms of annual returns at +8.6 percent in April.”

As of April 2012, average home prices across the United States are back to the levels where they were in early 2003 for the 20-City Composite and to mid-2003 levels for the 10-City Composite. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks through April 2012, the decline for both Composites is approximately 34 percent. Both Composites recently reached their index level lows in the current housing cycle in March 2012, down approximately 35 percent from their peaks.

In April 2012, 19 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites posted positive monthly returns. Detroit was the only exception recording a monthly decline of 3.6 percent. Atlanta was the only city to post a double-digit negative annual rate of return; however it saw improvements in both monthly and annual rates versus what was published for March. Phoenix continues to lead those cities with improving trends, posting a 2.5 percent monthly increase in April, as well as the highest annual rate of return amongst all 20 cities at +8.6 percent. Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas continue to have average home prices below their January 2000 levels.



Article reprinted from RISMedia: http://rismedia.com/2012-06-30/spring-sales-home-prices-rise-in-april/

Little Know Facts About the 4th of July

Think your older siblings and cousins already taught you everything you ever needed to know about shooting fireworks? Think your 3rd grade teacher taught you all you needed to know to explain to your own kids why we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July? Take a look at some of the below facts found in the Farmer’s Almanac. You might be surprised…

The Real Independence Day?
The Declaration of Independence was announced on July 4th, though the formal signing didn’t occur until August 2nd, and the colonies actually voted to accept it on July 2nd. So you may wonder – what day is the real Independence Day?

John Adams, who first proposed the idea of declaring independence from England, wrote a famous letter to his wife, Abigail, about how he believed July 2nd would be a day that was remembered and celebrated in America for years to come. Apparently everyone else remembered otherwise…

Old Glory
Did you know, that there have been 28 versions of the U.S flag to date, and that the most recent one, designed after Alaska and Hawaii joined the union, was the result of a school project? Robert Heft was 17 when he came up with the flag design in 1958. He originally got a B- on the project, but when his pattern won the national competition to become the next flag, his teacher raised his grade to an A.

A Patriotic Death?
Three American presidents have died on the fourth of July. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day, in 1826. They had been rivals in everything, even about who would live longest. Adams’ last words were about his long-time foe: “Thomas Jefferson lives!” In fact, Jefferson had died just five hours earlier, but Adams hadn’t gotten the message. James Monroe is the third president to die on July 4th, but he died in 1831.

And the Rockets’ Red Glare…
Fireworks and parades have long-since been a staple in Independence Day celebrations. In that same letter of John Adams about celebrating on July 2nd, he wrote that the day

“Ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the  other, from this time forward forever more.” And so colonists celebrated the fourth even before they knew if they would win the war, setting off fireworks July 4th, 1777. Fireworks were further popularized in the late 1700s by politicians that had displays at their speeches, and they became a firmly established tradition by the 1800s.

It is also said, that fireworks displays were used as morale boosters for soldiers in the Revolutionary war. At the time however, fireworks were the same type of explosives used in war and were called rockets, not fireworks.

Signs of Sustained Recovery Abound

The various small businesses that drive the country’s housing market are reporting signs that the industry may be making a real and sustained comeback.

At the start of this year’s spring selling season, home builders and real estate professionals alike expressed optimism about the growing number of prospective buyers showing up at open houses and inquiring about current house listings. It now appears that interest has translated into sales in many markets.

Mark Prather, whose real estate agency, ERA Buy America Real Estate Services is on the border of Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, states, “We had a terrific March, better April, and May is going to be the best closing month since 2006.”

Other success stories are being reported across the nation, as business is being driven by pent-up demand. Many people had put off buying a home since prior to the recession, and prices are lower after plummeting during the housing crisis. In addition, rising rents are making buying more attractive, and mortgage rates are at record lows.  The National Association of Realtors states that more than 1.3 million previously occupied homes were sold from January through April—a 7 percent increase from more than 1.2 million a year ago.

Source: “Housing Market is Perking Up,”Buffalo News/Associated Press (06/11/12)

Baby Boomers Are On The Move










The recent Housing Summit hosted by SmartNumbers and ViaSearch provided some interesting insight into some of the most recent migration patterns for buyers in Metro Atlanta. Their data shows that the “third or higher move up” category continues to be the leading segment of buyers across Metro Atlanta. This is further supported by the “head of household age group of 45-65+” showing a positive trend. See the chart below.











For many years, the first time buyer was the leading buyer segment for Metro Atlanta. But recent challenges to gainful employment and increased scrutiny for mortgage underwriting have forced many younger buyers to rent versus buy. Starting on January of 2011, more than 10,000 boomers started turning 65 every day. This began one of the most significant migration trends we will see in our lifetimes. Retiring boomers are once again moving from the cold weather of the Midwest and Northeast to the Sun Belt. Others are bailing out of high cost and high tax areas to places with a more reasonable cost of living. That is good for Metro Atlanta. Many baby boomers will want to move closer to their children and grandchildren. Others will seek a simpler, less maintenance lifestyle. Others will move to assisted living or transitional housing.

Many baby boomers are surprised to see the math regarding staying in their current properties or moving. And many will be unpleasantly surprised at how little they can afford when prices rise and mortgage rates rise over time. If you or someone you know is considering their options, we would be happy to show them their options so they can make the most informed decision. Contact us today at www.PetersenPartners.com.

Smyrna Tackles Litter and Helps Its Property Values

Local Smyrna residents might have noticed some funny billboards popping up in the last few months. My personal favorite compares littering to “networking at a funeral.” So glaringly wrong, it gets your attention. And it’s supposed to!

Who is behind the littering campaign?  Keep Smyrna Beautiful (KSB) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help the public become more aware and concerned about environmental issues. KSB is funded by the City of Smyrna, recycling revenues, and private contributions which all help the organization host community events, manage recycling programs, and sponsor outreach programs like providing private ashtrays to help smokers dispose of their butts properly. The Keep Smyrna Beautiful Program and volunteers continue to win awards, year after year.

A member of the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) system, KSB has joined in a litter prevention campaign to help increase the awareness of the problem of litter. Under the leadership of Keith Bentley, KSB will be using banners, volunteers at events, t-shirts, and other give-aways to promote the campaign. It links littering with other undeniable – and often humorous—wrongdoings, such as “networking at a funeral,” “breaking up on Valentine’s Day,” or “giving a kid sugar at bedtime.”

Why should you care?  If you are own a house and want it to maintain any value it has, you should care. KAB’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7 percent. Now more than ever, that’s a definite reason to care! If you shop locally, pay taxes, or own a local business, you should also care. Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion.  Governments, schools, and other organizations pick up the remainder. The presence of litter in a community takes a significant toll on the quality of life, property values, and housing prices.

What can you do?  Spreading the word is easy. On the website www.LitteringIsWrongToo.org, visitors can share their own “wrongs,” including uploading photos and videos which will help generate more buzz for the problem of litter. People can also take part via the campaign’s Facebook page and on Twitter. Locally, you can check out KAB’s facebook page for local news and events. You can also volunteer by contacting the Keep Smyrna Beautiful Office by phone at (770) 431-2863 or email KAB at either akirk@ci.smyrna.ga.us or vdavis@ci.smyrna.ga.us.


Local Family Fun on July 4th

Looking for some fun family fun to enjoy this fourth of July? Whether it’s a parade or a carnival you’re looking for, plenty of local events offer your family lots of variety and activity. What’s that? Your family craves the booming sensation of fireworks lighting up the night sky while patriotic songs we all love to sing fill the air waves? Well, there’s plenty of that kind of Independence Day fun, too! Don’t forget to check with your local homeowner’s associations and your town’s website or newspaper for more details on all of the activities planned for the 4th. Here’s a list of just a few local events we put together…

The city of Marietta’s Fourth in the Park celebration begins Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 10 a.m. and includes a parade, free live concerts, museum tours, arts and crafts show, food, carnival games and fireworks finale. The Marietta Freedom Parade includes 110 entries, 2,000 participants and an estimated 30,000 spectators. The parade begins at 10 a.m. at Roswell Street Baptist Church and travels west on Roswell Street, north on East Park Square past Glover Park and the Square, down Cherokee Street and ends at North Marietta Parkway. The end of the parade marks the start of the Festival. Food concessions, arts and crafts and carnival will provide plenty to do for the whole family.

Celebrate Independence Day with family and friends at Wills Park in Alpharetta. Bring your blanket or yard chairs and picnic basket and relax under the stars. Activities include free children’s game, concert by the Alpharetta City Band and other musicians. Watch a beautiful fireworks display at dusk.

Come celebrate Centennial Olympic Park’s 4th of July Celebration with a night of fun and entertainment for the entire family, including downtown Atlanta’s best fireworks display. Park gates open at 6 p.m. and fireworks start at approximately 9:40 p.m. The finale of the evening is Centennnial Olympic Park’s Fireworks Spectacular, Atlanta’s best fireworks display synchronized to a special selection of patriotic and popular music. Each year, thousands of people come to Centennial Olympic Park to celebrate Independence Day. MARTA is strongly encouraged for transportation. Exit the West Line at the Philips Arena/Dome/GWCC Station (W-1) or exit the North Line at Peachtree Center (N-1), and follow the signs to Centennial Olympic Park.
And, of course, there’s always Lenox Square. Hosting the largest fireworks show in the Southeast, Lenox Square will light up the sky with their huge Pyrotechnic Extravaganza at 9:40pm. This year the 4th of July Fireworks at Lenox Square will feature over 4000 shots making it one of the largest fireworks displays in the country! The Lenox Square Independence Day Celebration starts at noon and offers fun for everyone. Between the Fourth of July Fireworks Show and the Peachtree Road Race, Lenox Square will be bustling with activity! Don your red, white and blue, and discover the fun at Lenox Square! 4th of July will be celebrated in grand tradition with activities for the entire family, including a Kids Zone, live musical entertainment from Party on the Moon, food concessions and the largest fireworks display in the Southeast. Everyone is invited to Lenox Square to experience Atlanta’s legendary celebration!

How to Stage Your Pet for Selling Your Home

You’ve cleaned, polished, washed, painted, planted, decluttered, and depersonalized. You’ve done everything to prepare your home for prospective buyers. But what about Fido and Fluffy?

Pets can be a real challenge when selling your home.  Many pet owners work during the day and can’t be home to take the dog for a walk or shoo the cat outside. Having strangers in their home—especially when their owners are away—can be stressful and frightening to a pet and their behavior can become unpredictable. Keeping the dog crated might seem like a good idea, but having a dog barking at buyers during a showing is distracting. You don’t want your home to be remembered as “the one with the dog in the crate.” While sending pets away to board or to live elsewhere temporarily is perhaps the ideal solution, it is rarely a feasible option.  So what is a pet loving seller to do?

There are certain concessions and changes in behavior a seller has to make when their home is on the market. As a pet owner, look at adding a few extra things to that daily checklist before you head out the door to work.

Smells  A huge turn off to prospective buyers is smell and, let’s be honest, pets sometimes smell like… pets. Treat your pet to some new bedding that is machine washable. If the bed can be disguised behind or beneath a piece of furniture, even better. A bed that is out of sight and washed frequently will also be out of a buyer’s mind. Keep pets bathed and groomed more often than usual, so as not to add to existing pet odor. In homes with cats, concealing the litter box is a great idea in addition to adopting a meticulous scooping routine. Also try letting some fresh air in. A closed in home will hold more odors so open the windows.

Stains  As soon as a prospective buyer realizes you have pets, they are likely going to start looking for stains. Stains suggest the home has not been well maintained overall and limit the possibility of a high offer. Stains don’t have to be permanent. Many companies offer products for heavy duty stain removal and odor control you can . Considering hiring a professional to clean your carpets or furniture to remove any stains and odors.

Vaccuming  When you have pets, it’s a good idea to vacuum daily while your home is on the market. Look for a non-perfumed deodorizer you can use when vacuuming and change the bag more frequently than usual. Even if the carpets have been professionally cleaned, frequent vacuuming will cut down on the amount of odors, pet hair, and pet dander floating around your home, potentially deterring buyers with allergies or just sensitive noses. Plus, a freshly vacuumed home suggests to buyers that the entire home is well maintained.

Another approach to consider is how you can actually incorporate your pets into the staging of your home. This doesn’t mean you should leave the rawhide bones and pouches of catnip lying around, but there are ways to embrace your pet as a part of what makes your home cozy and inviting for the right buyer’s family. “Styled, Staged, and Sold” blogger Melissa Dittman Tracey did just that when she sold her last home. In the post Can You Stage the Household Dog?, she discussed how she came up with a pet-friendly staging plan.

Tracey included a pet specific talking point sign at the home’s entrance which included a welcome message, a photo of the dogs, what their names were and their secure location in the home. Tracey also made sure the dogs were in an out-of-the-way room, situated behind a pet gate, and included another talking point sign by the door of that room. She even dressed up her smaller breed dogs in matching sweaters in case viewers wanted to peek into the room– for some pooches this may be taking things a bit far, but it’s definitely a whimsical touch. The bottom line for this life situation is maintaining a warm, secure, safe environment for both pets and visiting buyers when the home is on the market.

Fun Arts Festival to Benefit Animal Shelter

Cobb Animal Control will present the inaugural Art, Barks and Purrs Festival 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, June 23, on the front lawn of the Animal Control Shelter, located at 1060 Al Bishop Drive, Marietta.

“This festival is part of a new program to raise awareness of the many homeless animals in Cobb County and encourage the public to visit our shelter,” said Tom Flynn, field services manager and acting facility operations manager. “We want people to know that we are not the old-fashioned ‘dog pound,’ but a place for new beginnings for the cats and dogs who ended up here through no fault of their own.”

Vendors at the festival will feature handcrafted animal-related art, including jewelry, bird feeders and houses, housewares, animal clothing, collars and leashes, pet portraits and pottery. For more information about the event, call Tom Flynn at 770-590-5601. For more information about Cobb Animal Control, visit cobbanimalcontrol.org.