Monthly Archives: May 2011

Joyce’s Voice…Getting Your House Ready to go on the Market, Important Information!

Emotion vs. Reason

When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a “home.” Yet
if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a “house.” There is
a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when
selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.

You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.

The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it.

De-personalize the House

The reason you want to “de-personalize” your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about owning the house. Therefore, put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.

Do not just put the box in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of
preparing a house for sale is to remove “clutter,” and that is the next step in
preparing your house for sale.

Removing
Clutter, Though You May Not Think of it as Clutter

This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and
basements.

Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of
clutter, as long as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let
your agent help you, too.

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place
to start. First, get everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster.
Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where
you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that
you do not have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes,
pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in
storage, too.

You see, homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the
kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your
kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative
message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space.
The best way to do that is to have as much “empty space” as possible.

For that reason, if you have a “junk drawer,” get rid of the junk. If you have a
rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer.
Create open space.

If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a new house, anyway – or paying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the shelves determine your menus and use up as much as you can.

Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.

Closet Clutter

Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes – things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look “crammed full.” Sometimes there are shoeboxes full of “stuff” or other accumulated personal items, too.

Furniture Clutter

Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusion of space that a
homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see
how they place furniture in the model homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your
house.

Storage Area Clutter

Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to the storage area. Or have a garage sale.

Fixing Up the House Interior

Plumbing and Fixtures

All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, buy new ones where needed. If you don’t buy something fancy, this can be accomplished inexpensively and they are fairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak.
If they do, replace the washers. It is not difficult at all.

Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a
cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem
to be wonderful at making stains go away.

Ceilings, Walls and Painting

Check all the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after you have repaired the leak. Of course, if you do have a leak, you will have to
get it repaired, whether it is a plumbing problem or the roof leaks. You should do the same for walls, looking for not only stains, but also areas where
dirt has accumulated and you just may not have noticed. Plus, you may have an
outdated color scheme.

Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.

Carpet and Flooring

Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or
color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If
you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly
neutral color.

Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything.
Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your
goal is simply to have as few negative impressions upon those who may want to
purchase your property.

Windows and Doors

Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home.

Do the same things with the doors – make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.

Odor Control

For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.

Pets of all kinds create odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned olfactory senses. For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor.
For those with dogs, keep the dog outdoors as much as possible. You might also
try sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.

Costs of Repairs

Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, use savings to pay
for any repairs and improvements – do not go charging up credit cards or
obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to
buy your next home. You do not want to do anything that will affect your credit
scores or hurt your ability to qualify for your next mortgage.

Fixing Up Outside the House

Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the house first, but
unless there is a major project involved, we believe it is best to do it last.
There are two main reasons for this. First, the first steps in preparing the
interior of the house are easier. They also help develop the proper mind set
required for selling – beginning to think of your “home” as a marketable
commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important. A homebuyer’s first
impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s
car.So take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares.

Landscaping

Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few
bushes and plant them. Do not put in trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you
will not get back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much
to the appearance value of the home.

If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They
add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Do
not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to
create the desired effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of brown earth
for homebuyers to view.

Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need re-sodding, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.

Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.

House Exterior

The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house
from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be
in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the
appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential
homebuyers.

When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house, too. For some reason, different shades of yellow seem to
elicit the best response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic
color of the house.

As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you
do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer
will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector
says. Why spend money unnecessarily?

The Back Yard

The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more sense to remove them than to leave them in place. They take up room, and you want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are not as
large.

The Front Door & Entryway

The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house.
Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or
repainting, make sure to get that done.

If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your family name on it, remove it.
Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always put it up again once you move.
Get a new plush door mat, too. This is something else you can take with you once
you move.

Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective home buyers.

Advertisements

Joyce’s Voice…The Business Cycle and Buying a Home Recession and Expansion

There are times when the economy is brisk and everyone feels confident about his or her prospects for the future. As a result, they spend money. People eat out more, buy new cars, and… …they buy new homes. Then, for one reason or another, the economy slows down. Companies lay off employees and consumers are more careful about where they spend money, perhaps saving more than usual. As a result, the economy decelerates even further. If it slows enough, we have a recession. During such a time, fewer people are buying homes. Even so, some homeowners find themselves in a situation where they must sell. Families grow beyond the capacity of the home, employees get relocated, and some may even find themselves unable to make their mortgage payment – perhaps because of a layoff in the family. Supply and Demand When the supply of available houses is greater than the supply of buyers, appreciation may slow and prices may even fall, as happened in the early eighties and the early to mid-nineties. If you are lucky enough to purchase a home during a slow period, you can be reasonably certain the economy will begin to show strength again. At times, real estate values may even surge drastically. In many regions of the country, this is precisely what occurred in the late eighties and nineties. Should You Try to “Time the Market“? One problem with attempting to time your purchase to the business cycle is that no one can accurately predict the future. Another challenge is that interest rates are generally higher during a depressed market and income may not be keeping up. For that reason, fewer people can qualify for a home purchase than in more prosperous times. Why You Should Not Wait Plus, this strategy generally works best for first-time buyers. People who already have a home usually need to sell it in order to buy their next one. If a “move-up” buyer wants to buy a home during a depressed market, that means they usually have to sell one during the slow market, too. If a seller wants to sell his home to take advantage of a “hot” market when prices are fairly high, they generally have to buy their next home during that same hot market. It tends to equal out. Finally, the business cycle can change over time. Since 1983, we have had two fairly long expansions with only a slight recession in between each. You would not want to wait nine years to buy a home, would you? You could miss out on a substantial amount of appreciation by waiting, and end up paying much higher prices.

Joyce’s Voice… Avoid Pitfalls Before Purchasing a Home

Don’t Move Money Around

When a lender reviews your loan package for approval, one of the things they are
concerned about is the source of funds for your down payment and closing costs.
Most likely, you will be asked to provide statements for the last two or three
months on any of your liquid assets. This includes checking accounts, savings
accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, stock statements, mutual
funds, and even your company 401K and retirement accounts.

If you have been moving money between accounts during that time, there may be large deposits and withdrawals in some of them.

The mortgage underwriter (the person who actually approves your loan) will probably require a complete paper trail of all the withdrawals and deposits. You may be required to produce canceled checks, deposit receipts, and other seemingly inconsequential data, which could get quite tedious.

Perhaps you become exasperated at your lender, but they are only doing their job
correctly. To ensure quality control and eliminate potential fraud, it is a
requirement on most loans to completely document the source of all funds. Moving your money around, even if you are consolidating your funds to make it “easier,” could make it more difficult for the lender to properly document.

So leave your money where it is until you talk to a loan officer.

Oh…don’t change banks, either.

Don’t Buy A Car

When an individual’s income starts growing and they manage to set aside some savings, they commonly experience what may be considered an innate instinct of modern civilized mankind.

The desire to spend money.

Since North Americans have a special love affair with the automobile, this

becomes a high priority item on the shopping list. Later, other things will be added and one of those will probably be a house.

However, by the time home ownership has become more than a distant and hopeful dream, you may have already bought the car.

It happens all the time, sometimes just before you contact a lender to get
pre-qualified for a mortgage.

As part of the interview, you may tell the loan officer your price target. He will
ask about your income, your savings and your debts, then give you his opinion.
“If only you didn’t have this car payment,” he might begin, “you would certainly
qualify for a home loan to buy that house.”

Debt-to-Income Ratios and Car Payments

When determining your ability to qualify for a mortgage, a lender looks at what is called your “debt-to-income” ratio. A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of
your gross monthly income (before taxes) that you spend on debt. This will
include your monthly housing costs, including principal, interest, taxes,
insurance, and homeowner’s association fees, if any. It will also include your
monthly consumer debt, including credit cards, student loans, installment debt,
and……car payments.

How a New Car Payment Reduces Your Purchase Price

Suppose you earn $5000 a month and you have a car payment of $400. At current interest rates (approximately 8% on a thirty-year fixed rate loan), you would qualify for approximately $55,000 less than if you did not have the car payment.

Even if you feel you can afford the car payment, mortgage companies approve your mortgage based on their guidelines, not yours. Do not get discouraged, however. You should still take the time to get pre-qualified by a lender.

However, if you have not already bought a car, remember one thing. Whenever the thought of buying a car enters your mind, think ahead. Think about buying a home first. Buying a home is a much more important purchase when considering your future financial well being.

The Business Cycle and Buying a Home

Recession and Expansion

There are times when the economy is brisk and everyone feels confident about his or her prospects for the future. As a result, they spend money. People eat out
more, buy new cars, and……they buy new homes.

Then, for one reason or another, the economy slows down. Companies lay off employees and consumers are more careful about where they spend money, perhaps saving more than usual. As a result, the economy decelerates even further. If it slows enough, we have a recession.

During such a time, fewer people are buying homes. Even so, some homeowners find themselves in a situation where they must sell. Families grow beyond the
capacity of the home, employees get relocated, and some may even find themselves unable to make their mortgage payment – perhaps because of a layoff in the family.

Supply and Demand

When the supply of available houses is greater than the supply of buyers,
appreciation may slow and prices may even fall, as happened in the early
eighties and the early to mid-nineties.

If you are lucky enough to purchase a home during a slow period, you can be
reasonably certain the economy will begin to show strength again. At times, real
estate values may even surge drastically. In many regions of the country, this
is precisely what occurred in the late eighties and nineties.

Should You Try to “Time the Market“?

One problem with attempting to time your purchase to the business cycle is that no one can accurately predict the future. Another challenge is that interest rates
are generally higher during a depressed market and income may not be keeping up. For that reason, fewer people can qualify for a home purchase than in more
prosperous times.

Why You Should Not Wait

Plus, this strategy generally works best for first-time buyers. People who already
have a home usually need to sell it in order to buy their next one. If a
“move-up” buyer wants to buy a home during a depressed market, that means they usually have to sell one during the slow market, too. If a seller wants to sell
his home to take advantage of a “hot” market when prices are fairly high, they
generally have to buy their next home during that same hot market.

It tends to equal out.

Finally, the business cycle can change over time. Since 1983, we have had two fairly long expansions with only a slight recession in between each. You would not want to wait nine years to buy a home, would you? You could miss out on a substantial amount of appreciation by waiting, and end up paying much higher prices.

Joyce’s Voice….Property disclosures and inspections

Writing an Offer – Safeguards Regarding 

                                                Property Disclosures From the Seller

Although you have toured the property, looked at the walls and ceiling, turned on the faucets and played with the light switches, you have not lived in it. The seller has years of knowledge about his or her home and there may be some things you want to find out about as quickly as possible. For this reason, you will require certain disclosures as part of your offer.

Basically, you want the seller to disclose any adverse conditions that may have a
substantial impact on your decision to purchase the home. This would include any problems with the house, whether the property is in a flood zone, a noise zone, or any other kind of hazardous area.

If you have an agent representing you, this is almost automatic, but many states do not require individuals selling their own home to provide you with this
information. Often they do not require banks selling foreclosed property to
provide these disclosures, either. Obtaining these types of disclosures should
always be a part of your offer, and time is of the essence.

Condition of the Property

The last thing you want when you assume possession of your new home is to find it in a total mess. Therefore, you should make it clear in your offer that certain minimum standards are required. If you do not, you might find out the seller or neighbors have begun using the back yard as a trash dump, or something worse – and you would not be able to do anything about it.

Some of the requirements you might want to include in your offer are that the roof does not leak, the appliances work, the plumbing does not leak, that there are no broken or cracked windows, the yard has been kept up, and any debris has been cleared away.

Inspections You Should Require

Besides appraisal and the pest inspection, you should also have a professional go through the house and seek out potential problems. Of course, you will have
inspected the home, but you are not used to looking at some things that a
professional will find. Even if they are not things the seller is expected to
repair, at least you will have foreknowledge of any potential
problems.

The seller will want this inspection performed quickly, so that you can approve the results and move forward with the purchase. Once you receive the inspection, you will want to allow yourself sufficient time to review and approve the report. If you do not approve the report, you may negotiate with the sellers on which repairs should be performed and who should pay for those repairs. Otherwise, you can cancel the purchase without penalty, provided you have included timetables in your offer.

Allow 10 days to receive and review inspection.

Final Walk-Through Inspection

Before closing, you will want to revisit the property to ensure it is in the condition you have required in your offer, and to inspect that any required repairs have been performed. You should do this no sooner than five days before you intend to close. Make sure this right to do a final inspection is included in your offer to purchase the home.

If you are moving to a home for the first time, you are going to be very pleased
with all the new space you have available. You may have to even buy more
“stuff.”

Joyce’s Voice…Understanding the basics of: Writing an Offer to Purchase Real Estate

The Basics Writing an Offer to Purchase Real Estate…. Once you find the home you want to buy, the next step is to write an offer – which is not as easy as it sounds. Your offer is the first step toward negotiating a sales contract with the seller. Since this is just the beginning of negotiations, you should put yourself in the seller’s shoes and imagine his or her reaction to everything you include. Your goal is to get what you want, and imagining the seller’s reactions will help you attain that goal. The offer is much more complicated than simply coming up with a price and saying, “This is what I’ll pay.” Because of the large dollar amounts involved, especially in today’s litigious society, both you and the seller want to build in protections and contingencies to protect your investment and limit your risk. In an offer to purchase real estate, you include not only the price you are willing to pay, but other details of the purchase as well. This includes how you intend to finance the home, your down payment, who pays what closing costs, what inspections are performed, timetables, whether personal property is included in the purchase, terms of cancellation, any repairs you want performed, which professional services will be used, when you get physical possession of the property, and how to settle disputes should they occur. It is certainly more involved than buying a car. And more important. Buying a home is a major event for both the buyer and seller. It will affect your finances more than any other previous purchase or investment. The seller makes plans based on your offer that affect his finances, too. However, it is more important than just money. In the half-hour it takes to write an offer you are making decisions that affect how you live for the next several years, if not the rest of your life. The seller is going to review your offer carefully, because it also affects how he or she lives the rest of their life. That sounds dramatic. It sounds like a cliché. Every real estate book or article you read says the same thing. They all say it because it is true. Contingencies in a Purchase Offer In most purchase transactions there may be a slight challenge or two, but most things will go quite smoothly. However, you want to anticipate potential problems so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. These are called “contingencies” and you must be sure to include them when you offer to buy a home. For example, some “move-up” buyers often agree to purchase a home before selling their previous home. Even if the home is already sold, it is probably a “pending sale” and has not closed. Therefore, you should make closing your own sale a condition of your offer. If you do not include this as a contingency, you may find yourself making two mortgage payments instead of one. There are other common contingencies you should include in your offer. Since you probably need a mortgage to buy the home, a condition of your offer should be that you successfully obtain suitable financing. Another condition should be that the property appraises for at least what you agreed to pay for it. During the escrow period you are likely to require certain inspections, and another contingency should be that it pass those inspections. Basically, contingencies protect you in case you cannot perform or choose not to perform on a promise to buy a home. If you cancel a contract without having built-in conditions and contingencies, you could find yourself forfeiting your earnest money deposit. Or worse. Earnest Money Deposit After you have come up with an offer price, the next step is to determine how large a deposit you want to make with your offer. You want the “earnest money deposit” to be large enough to show the seller you are serious, but not so large you are placing significant funds at risk. One recommendation is to make sure your deposit is less than two to three percent (depending on your location) of your offered price. The reason for this is that if your deposit is larger than that, the lender will pay particular attention to how you came up with the funds. You might have to provide a copy of a canceled check along with a bank statement showing you had the money to begin with. Normally, this is not a problem, but if you have a short escrow period or are barely coming up with your down payment, it could pose an inconvenience. Another reason to limit your deposit is “just in case.” Although significant problems are the exception and not the rule, they do occur. “Just in case” there is a nasty or prolonged dispute between you and the seller, the less money you have tied up in a deposit, the fewer funds you have placed at risk. As with practically everything in real estate, there are exceptions to this rule, too. During a hot market there may be multiple offers on the property that interests you. A large deposit may impress a seller enough so they will accept your offer instead of someone else’s, even when your unknown competitor is offering the same price or slightly higher. Since large deposits do impress sellers, you may also find that by making a large deposit you can convince the seller to accept a lower offer. More money up front may save you money later. There are also times when closing can be delayed by weeks, through no fault of your own. Have back-up plans prepared for such a contingency. The Closing Date It is absolutely essential that you include a closing date as part of your offer. This way both you and the seller can make plans for moving, and the seller can make plans for buying his or her next home. Though most transactions actually do close on the right date, do not be so inflexible that a delay creates insurmountable problems. For example, if you are renting and need to give the landlord notice that you are moving out, you may want to allow a little flexibility. Otherwise, if your purchase closes a few days late you could find yourself staying in a motel with your belongings packed in a moving van somewhere while you pay storage costs. There are also times when closing can be delayed by weeks, through no fault of your own. Have back-up plans prepared for such a contingency. Transfer of Possession A transaction is considered “closed” once the deeds have been recorded. Then you own the home. However, it is not always possible for you to occupy it immediately. This can happen for several reasons, but the most common is that the seller may be purchasing a home, too. Usually, it is scheduled to close simultaneously with your purchase of their home. It is sort of like being at a red light when it turns green. Although all the cars see the light change at the same time, the guy at the back of the line doesn’t begin moving until all the cars ahead of him have started. As a result, it has become customary to allow the seller up to a maximum of three days to turn over actual possession and keys to the home. When transfer of possession actually occurs should be clearly laid out in your offer to prevent confusion later.

Joyce’s Voice…Benefits of Owning Your Own Home

The Best Investment As a fairly general rule, homes appreciate about five percent a year. Some years will be more, some less. The figure will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and region to region. Five percent may not seem like that much at first. Stocks (at times) appreciate much more, and you could earn over six percent with the safest investment of all, treasury bonds. But take a second look… Presumably, if you bought a $200,000 house, you did not pay cash for the home. You got a mortgage, too. Suppose you put as much as twenty percent down – that would be an investment of $40,000. At an appreciation rate of 5% annually, a $200,000 home would increase in value $10,000 during the first year. That means you earned $10,000 with an investment of $40,000. Your annual “return on investment” would be a whopping twenty-five percent. Of course, you are making mortgage payments and paying property taxes, along with a couple of other costs. However, since the interest on your mortgage and your property taxes are both tax deductible, the government is essentially subsidizing your home purchase. Your rate of return when buying a home is higher than most any other investment you could make. If you are moving to a home for the first time, you are going to be very pleased with all the new space you have available. You may have to even buy more “stuff.”

Joyce’s Voice….Realtors® Commend Students for School of the Future Designs Washington

April 15, 2011 The National Association of Realtors® welcomed middle school students from across the country this week to participate in the annual School of Future Design Competition. The competition encourages students to work in teams to plan and design a school that will improve the learning environment and the facility’s energy efficiency, be sensitive to the environment, and is integral to the surrounding community. This year’s winners were announced last night during an event held at NAR’s D.C. offices. “Realtors® help build communities and schools are a crucial part of that,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “I am proud to recognize these leading students for their forward-thinking ideas and designs on sustainable buildings. Schools that are energy efficient and enhance learning are integral to stable communities, something Realtors® care very deeply about.” Each student team is required to submit a project model made from recycled materials, a short video or presentation, and a 750-word narrative description documenting the planning process and rationale behind their project. Finalist teams receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to present their projects to the national design jury. The School of Future Design Competition is part of School Building Week, April 11-15. The week is sponsored by NAR and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, as well as the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Institute of Architects, and more than 35 associations and private companies. This year the Awards of Excellence went to Teeland Middle School in Wasilla, Alaska, and Seneca Middle School in Macomb, Mich. The Awards of Merit went to Newtown Middle School in Newton, Conn., and Heritage Middle School in Wake Forest, N.C. Valley Academy Charter School in Phoenix, and Michael R. Null School in Houston received the Awards of Accommodation. Teeland Middle School received a $2,000 prize for the Award of Excellence. Its unique design consisted of three wings representing mountains and a central common area reflecting Native Alaskan architecture. The sides of the outside structure are covered in vegetation and the top floor of each wing contains a solar-paneled glass dome. The team included a hydroponic garden inside the school where produce is used for organic lunches, a fish pond, and a stream that runs throughout the school. Sustainability is also prominent in the design with waste recycled into plant food and reusable tableware in the cafeteria. A second Award of Excellence and a $2,000 prize was also awarded to the students from Seneca Middle School. The team created a boarding school on the site of Tiger Stadium, a former baseball field in Detroit. The future school will contain an organic urban farm, smart boards in each classroom, and a virtual reality room. Smart bricks control the heating and cooling system based on temperature change and a green roof reduces energy use. Students from Newtown Middle School received the Award of Merit and were awarded $1,000. They produced a design for an eco-friendly and energy-efficient school that educates students and inspires conservation and responsibility. Their future school design included skylights, multi-purpose flexible space, ID cards and surveillance cameras promoting a sense of security, and elevators and automatic doors for handicapped students and visitors. The design will also be used as a learning tool for students, containing an underwater classroom in a nearby river, a telescope dome for astronomy studies, and a garden to give students the opportunity to learn about biology. Heritage Middle School also received $1,000 and the Award of Merit. The team of students incorporated energy-efficient resources, eco-friendly additions and high-tech gadgets into their future school design which reflects a retrofit of a current structure. The school features three alternative energy sources generated on campus and routed through its own power plant, inspired by a recent trip the team took to the North Carolina State Solar House. To incorporate the school into the local community, the students designed a community fitness trail located in an arboretum which houses several fitness stations and equipment. Two schools received the Award of Accommodation and $500. Valley Academy Charter School designed an art studio incorporating vibrant color and lighting to stimulate creativity. Michael R. Null Middle School created an energy-efficient school by using hydropower to fuel its water sources and create its own electricity with a glass roof.