If you haven’t been paying attention to the latest in solar panels and energy, or just haven’t had a reason to, a lot has changed since the product first came out during the 1970s.
Solar power doesn’t get a lot of attention because it’s not exactly new. While it has taken quite awhile to get to this point in the evolution of solar power, it has never been more attainable than it is today for your home because of breakthroughs in both technology and pricing.
Thanks to massive drops in pricing, the use of solar power is booming. Consider that the cost of solar panels is now 60 percent lower than it was just two years ago, according to research recently released regarding the U.S. solar energy market. The cost of overall solar PV systems, on average, is also 50 percent less than in 2010. That has spurred some of the biggest solar power growth in history, as solar panels across the country now have enough power capacity to power up to about 1.5 million average homes (about the size of Phoenix or Philadelphia).
Still, the emergence of solar power in the residential market has been gradual. Published data suggests that more than 90 percent of Americans favor solar energy use, a trend likely to continue given the heightened awareness of clean energy, but costs is still a big factor for homeowners. There are myriad cost factors to consider when determining your budget and solar system, which HGTVremodels.com does a nice job of outlining. There are federal tax credits and other financial incentives available – for example, California provides property tax exemptions and Los Angeles gives rebates – and many homeowners start on a smaller scale, such as several solar water heater systems on the market.
But there are other emerging options, such as solar leasing. One California-based company, SolarCity, offers solar leasing options that provide materials, installation, insurance, monitoring and repair for zero money up-front, [per HGTVremodels.com]. Homeowners pay a monthly leasing fee of around $100 for an average-sized system, and generally see their monthly bill lowered by more than the monthly fee.
In residential use, solar cells are grouped into panels that are installed on south-facing rooftops in an arrangement referred to as an array. The array is connected to an interior inverter, which controls the flow of electricity to the circuit breaker as well as a utility company that may credit the household if excess power is generated. Today solar panels are sleek and aesthetically pleasing, and many systems are extremely flexible and can be installed on your roof, a wall or even a free-standing structure.
There are newer options coming to the market, such as solar-powered roofing shingles. Installed like a normal shingle, it eliminates the need for structures that hold arrays of solar panels, and will be an affordable option because of easy instillation. There are solar powered, slate-like roof tiles with silicon chips; radiant heating floor systems that connect to pre-existing home solar panels; systems designed to heat outdoor swimming pools; and solar air conditioner systems that drastically reduce costs. Many of the newest products can be found here.
Plus, there are still federal and state rebates to consider.
Given its standing as a renewable energy that reduces the environmental footprint of a home, solar energy was already a viable option for many homeowners. But with the reduction in costs, options to reduce monthly bills, opportunities to sell back excess energy and advances in technology, solar power is gaining traction after a long time in the making.
Don’t-miss real estate television
If you haven’t noticed, real estate television shows are all the rage these days.
As the real estate market fluctuated and then rebounded in many parts of the country over the last several years, reality television went right along for the ride, producing a number of extremely popular shows. Whether it involves finding an international property on a far-away island, multi-million dollar listings in major cities, buying and renovating a home or flipping a house, for the most part real estate TV has it covered.
Certainly, scenarios are contrived, costs are inaccurate and most of what really happens in real estate is glossed over for the sake of good television, but those are the … realities … of reality TV. But if reality real estate is your thing, there are a lot of options, some more realistic than others.
Here are four shows not to miss:
Million Dollar Listing (Bravo)
While this reality show misses the mark on the vast majority of the LA real estate market, it certainly has a voyeuristic level of appeal , as viewers can catch a glimpse of multi-million dollar properties and estates. Even if it is mostly staged and ignores the details of what goes into the real estate deals, the (mostly) over-the-top storylines surrounding the show’s three main characters – Josh Altman, Madison Hildebrand and Josh Flagg -- are nonetheless entertaining.
Property Brothers (HGTV)
Real-life brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott not only convince home buyers to go for a fixer-upper property, they also handle the renovations. The show manages to shed some light on the realities of the real estate market as their buyers have to find a home, as well as the decisions (mostly design) that go into a home renovation, although the brothers handle all the heavy lifting for the sometimes overbearing buyers.
Income Property (HGTV)
This show fills an interesting niche, as licensed contractor Scott McGillivray helps first-time homebuyers maximize their purchase by creating income properties. More realistic than most, McGillivray helps overcome real-world problems that come with buying property, offers advice for how to fix things properly, and focuses on how the owners can optimize their new income properties.
Flip or Flop (HGTV)
New to the reality scene, husband and wife team Tarek and Christina, who are relatively new to flipping, purchase an unseen property at auction in each episode. Because they are also real estate agents, the show follows the entire process from purchase, through maddening renovation, to showings and the frantic sale. While many of the details are glossed over and the real income seems exaggerated, there is a touch of realism, as not everything is always smooth for Tarek and his picture-perfect partner.
Basic real estate definitions: A-Z
Regardless of whether you are an experienced property owner or real estate investor or a first-time buyer, knowing the basic terminology used in real estate is a must when you begin the process of buying or selling property.
Even a strong grasp of just a few of the most commonly used terms will help you greatly, so here is a glossary of 30 real estate terms you need to know:
Typically the value placed on property for the purpose of taxation.
An individual or firm that acts as an agent between providers and users of products or services, such as a mortgage broker or real estate broker.
Chain of Title:
The history of all of the documents that have transferred title to a parcel of real property, starting with the earliest existing document and ending with the most recent.
Ownership that is free of liens, defects, or other legal encumbranc es.
The process of completing a financial transaction. For mortgage loans, the process of signing mortgage documents, disbursing funds, and, if applicable, transferring ownership of the property.
The upfront fees charged in connection with a mortgage loan transaction.
The fee charged for services performed, usually based on a percentage of the price of the items sold (such as the fee a real estate agent earns on the sale of a house).
An abbreviation for “comparable properties,” which are used as a comparison in determining the current value of a property that is being appraised.
A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding.
The legal document transferring ownership or title to a property.
Deed of Trust:
A legal document in which the borrower transfers the title to a third party (trustee) to hold as security for the lender. When the loan is paid in full, the trustee transfers title back to the borrower. If the borrower defaults on the loan the trustee will sell the property and pay the lender the mortgage debt.
A decline in the value of a house due to changing market conditions or lack of upkeep on a home.
A right to the use of, or access to, land owned by another.
Any claim on a property, such as a lien, mortgage or easement.
The value in your home above the total amount of the liens against your home.
An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition.
Fair Market Value:
The price at which property would be transferred between a willing buyer and willing seller, each of whom has a reasonable knowledge of all pertinent facts and is not under any compulsion to buy or sell.
A legal action that ends all ownership rights in a home when the homebuyer fails to make the mortgage payments or is otherwise in default under the terms of the mortgage.
The cost you pay to borrow money. It is the payment you make to a lender for the money it has loaned to you. Interest is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed.
A lien on the property of a debtor resulting from the decree of a court.
A claim or charge on property for payment of a debt. With a mortgage, the lender has the right to take the title to your property if you don’t make the mortgage payments.
The current value of your home based on what a purchaser would pay on the open market.
A loan using a property as collateral. In some states the term is also used to describe the document signed (to grant the lender a lien on your home). It also may be used to indicate the amount of money borrowed, with interest, to purchase the home.
A written promise to pay a specified amount under the agreed upon conditions.
The amount of money borrowed or the amount of the loan that has not yet been repaid to the lender.
A written promise to repay a specified amount over a specified period of time.
Land and anything permanently affixed thereto — including buildings, fences, trees, and minerals.
The property that will be given or pledged as collateral for a loan.
The right to, and the ownership of, property. A title or deed is sometimes used as proof of ownership of land.
The process used to determine loan approval. It involves evaluating the property and the borrower’s credit and ability to pay the mortgage.
Decorating with cork
While cork has been used as a decorative and building material for centuries, it has been experiencing a renewed popularity in the United States thanks to its use as a flooring material.
Cork is becoming extremely popular, and for a number of valid reasons. Sustainability has been a hot topic among designers, who are increasingly looking for materials that make a lesser impact on the environment. Enter cork, which offers many versatile and unique characteristics while also representing a natural and renewable material.
Cork is an environmentally sustainable material harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, which are native to Spain, Portugal, and Tunisia. The extraction process doesn’t harm the tree and there is very little processing, leaving an incredibly low environmental footprint compared to other industrial materials, such as plastic. The bark is harvested once trees reach an age of 18-25 years, and it regenerates to allow harvesting every nine years.
So we know about cork’s green qualities. But because of its durability, just about anything can be made with cork, giving it many uses throughout the home.
Cork is simply ideal for flooring. It’s durable, aesthetically versatile, comfortable, safe (it’s fire-resistant) and healthy (it’s anti-microbial and resistant to mold, mildew and termites). Cork flooring retains its look as it wears, and comes in many styles.
Cork boardstock insulation.
While it has major environmental upside as insulation, it has only recently been introduced to Western markets. Cork granulates are superheated to activate a natural binder in the cork which binds the material together. The 100 percent natural material, a byproduct of the cork bottling industry, is permeable to water and meets fire-resistance standards without flame retardants.
Underlayment for flooring.
Popular in apartment buildings and condominium associations, cork cushions, insulates, and helps control the noise from walking on floating, engineered wood floors. It also helps improve the look, feel, and durability of laminate flooring, and acts as a vapor barrier against moisture.
Just about anything can be made with cork, but it’s popular to see it used in bath mats, tableware, lighting and of course, bulletin boards. But as ApartmentTherapy.com suggests, cork can be used in vases, book ends and serving trays, among other things.