5 Tips To Help Lower Your Heating Bills

You wouldn’t know it given the 75-80 degree weather we’ve been experiencing over the last week, but winter is just around the corner! while heating your home is a cost we all expect, there may be ways to reduce how much you pay. Here are some tips from Fixr.com, which provides “Cost Guides” of estimates to common household remodeling projects, highlights five projects to help increase a home’s energy efficiency and keep utility bills lower.

1. Find unorthodox heat sources. More efficient sources of heat are available, particularly if the home is in a milder climate or if the home can be broken into zones.

A heat pump can help lower your electric bills by 50 percent if you currently use electricity to heat your home. Heat pumps cost about $7,500, but will pay for themselves with reduced energy costs. Switching to a geothermal heat pump will save you even more. According to Money Crashers, geothermal heat pumps qualify for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of equipment and installation costs, with no upper limit. Pumps are also frequently paired with things like radiant heat flooring in specific areas of the home, as they are more effective at using energy than either baseboards or radiators and can help supplement the heat in smaller spaces.

Radiant heat costs between $6,000 and $14,000 if covering your whole home, but you can often install it in a single room for around $700. Paired with a heat pump, this will keep your home warm while significantly lowering your energy bills.

2. Add extra insulation. The amount of insulation that your home needs is directly tied to the type of heat source you have. Many homes are actually underinsulated for their climate and their heat source, resulting in their furnaces or radiators having to work harder than they need to and causing a spike in energy bills.

Insulating even a single room in your home can dramatically increase comfort and help you lower your thermostat, resulting in smaller bills. Adding insulation to your attic can also help you prevent costly and damaging ice dams as well, saving you even more. The cost to insulate a single room in your home is around $1,200 to $1,800, and will recoup about 107 percent of the cost at time of resale, making this one of the best improvements you can do for your home.

3. Take care of your furnace. Furnaces are one of the most commonly used ways to heat large homes. Unfortunately, they often have a wide range of efficiency that could be costing you more in monthly bills than they need to.

If your furnace is less than 10 years old, make sure to schedule regular maintenance to keep it running at peak efficiency. This involves changing the filter and making repairs as necessary. The most common furnace repair involves replacing the heat exchange, for around $1,000 to $1,700.

If your furnace is older than 10 years, replacing it can dramatically increase its efficiency. Older furnaces only run at around 50 percent efficiency, while newer models can reach rates of 90 percent, making them a much better choice for keeping monthly bills down. A new furnace costs around $3,000 to $5,000, but will pay for itself in lowered bills over time.

4. Make the switch to gas. If you’re currently heating your home with electricity or oil, you’re likely spending more each month than you would if you switched to natural gas. Gas furnaces are much more efficient than oil or electric heaters, which can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills each month.

The cost to install a new gas system in your home is around $6,000 to $8,000, assuming you have ducts already in place. This upgrade makes the most sense if your current heating system is over 10 years old, as you’ll see the largest gains. The typical ROI of a new gas furnace system is around 15 percent, which means that it will pay for itself in just 6 years.

5. Complete an energy audit. Your home may be losing a great deal of the energy you use to heat it, without you even realizing it. An energy audit—or a comprehensive look at how your home uses and loses energy—will help you find ways to make your home more efficient overall.

An energy audit costs about $150, and many times this cost will be rolled into any upgrades you may choose to make, allowing you to save more. Conducting an energy audit before you have any other work or upgrades done on your home can help you make better informed decisions about the space, maximizing your potential efficiency and savings.

Kitchen Remodels Offer Big Paybacks at Resale

According to Realtor.com, homeowners looking for a remodeling project may be smart to tackle a kitchen renovation if they’re looking for projects with the strongest buyer appeal and high returns on their investment at resale.

Kitchen renovations and upgrades are among the top remodeling projects most likely to add value to a home at resale and most likely to appeal to home shoppers, according to the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. The report takes a look at the cost of the most common exterior and interior remodeling and replacement projects and gauges how much appeal they have to buyers at resale.

Fifty-four percent of REALTORS® surveyed reported suggesting to sellers that they complete a kitchen upgrade before attempting to sell. Twenty-three percent of real estate pros also said a kitchen renovation helped to close a sale.

The Remodeling Impact Report estimates that homeowners stand to recover 57 percent—or $20,000—of the $35,000 or so of the cost to take on a kitchen upgrade. The kitchen upgrade might include adding new energy-efficient appliances, sink, faucet, and vinyl flooring; repainting the walls and ceiling; and refacing cabinets with white paint/veneer and new hardware.

Kitchen upgrades don’t just offer the potential for some bang for your buck at resale but also have been found to make homeowners more happy. Eighty-one percent of remodeling consumers surveyed said they had a greater desire to be at home since completing their kitchen upgrade project, and 81 percent felt a major sense of accomplishment after the renovation.

The following interior projects REALTORS® ranked highest to lowest as remodeling projects that would appeal to home buyers (listed along with project estimate costs and the potential return on investment at resale):

1. Complete Kitchen Renovation
Cost estimate: $65,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 62%

2. Kitchen Upgrade
Cost estimate: $35,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%

3. Bathroom Renovation
Cost estimate: $30,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $15,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

4. New Wood Flooring
Estimated cost: $5,500
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 91%

5. Add New Bathroom
Cost estimate of project: $59,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $29,750
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

6. Hardwood Flooring Refinish
Estimated cost: $3,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $3,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 100%

7. New Master Suite
Cost estimate: $125,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $65,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 52%

8. HVAC Replacement
Estimated cost: $7,475
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 67%

9. Basement Conversion To Living Area
Cost estimate: $40,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $25,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 63%

10. Closet Renovation
Estimated cost: $3,750
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $2,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

11. Insulation Upgrade
Estimated cost: $2,100
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $1,600
Percent of value recovered from the project: 76%

12. Attic Conversion To Living Area
Estimated cost: $75,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

Fall Is Great Time To Move

According to Realtor.com, a fall move may be just what you’re looking for. Less demand from families looking to get into a new home before school stars tends to open up the market a little bit, and the busy spring and summer season may motivate sellers to lower the asking price, hopefully avoiding the slowdown that inevitably sets in around the holiday and winter seasons.

Home buyers may also find attractive mortgage rates this fall. Mortgage rates are still under the 4 percent psychological threshold, which can be a luring incentive for borrowers. Freddie Mac reported last week that the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.78 percent, holding steady at a 2017 low.

Studies have shown that fall can be the best time to buy. A study conducted by RealtyTrac in 2015 found that October was the best month for home buyers. Purchasers in October paid 2.6 percent below the estimated market value at the time for their home, according to the analysis.

Nationally, home sales in August started to decline heading into the fall season. Sales of existing homes fell 1.7 percent from July to August, but the National Association of Realtors mostly blamed the decrease on the limited number of listings for sale on the market – something we have also seen in Ridgefield.

To search all listings in Fairfield County visit our Property Search page or get in touch with us directly.  There are deals just waiting to be had!

Ridgefield Schools Named Among State’s Best

Niche.com has released it’s 2018 Best Public Schools ranking and it comes as no surprise that Ridgefield schools once again fared very well. The district as a whole was ranked number 17 out of 118 school districts in Connecticut with good showings at all three levels of education. Our teachers were ranked number 8 in the state.  Nationally, Ridgefield School District ranks number 709 out of 10,574 and comes in at number 389 in terms of our teachers.

District rankings were determined by a thorough examination and analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more.

Ridgefield High School

Ridgefield High School placed #11 out of 196 Connecticut public schools, while our teachers ranked #9 and we came in at #7 in terms of collage prep. Nationally, Ridgefield High School places number 685 out of 17, 867 schools. Overall, Fairfield County counted many top 10 finishers with the ranking based on factors including state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, and high school ratings.  For a full ranking of the State’s Best High Schools, click here.

Ridgefield Middle Schools

Ridgefield middle schools also finished strong with East Ridge Middle School ranking #19 out of  287 schools and Scott’s Ridge Middle School in the #25 position. Reached ranking were #4 and #12 respectively. Middle school ranking involved a similar process to the high school ranking and included factors such as state test scores, student-teacher ratio, student diversity, teacher quality, middle school ratings, and the overall quality of the school district. You can see more about how Ridgefield Middle Schools ranked overall here.

Ridgefield Elementary Schools

Overall, Ridgefield elementary schools placed in the top 100 schools when compared to a total of 577 public elementary schools throughout the state.  Branchville Elementary School ranked the highest at #37, with Ridgebury at #50, Barlow Mountain #58, Scotland #60, Farmingville #63, and Veteran’s Park #97. For a full list, see the rankings here.

New Trend – Living Rooms Are Heading Upstairs

After years of hearing the buzzwords “open concept”, homes are starting to see a bit more compartmentalization with additional cozy places to retire becoming more common.

As such, upper-level living rooms are becoming a sought-after space among homeowners, The Wall Street Journal reports. Homeowners are finding these second-floor lounges can be more informal spaces than living areas on the first floor—and can offer more privacy, too.

The idea behind these spaces are nothing new. Historic homes often have included an upstairs “retiring room” for mothers nursing children or for resting midday, says T. Jeffrey Clarke, an architect in Philadelphia, and Karla Murtaugh Homes has a few homes on the market right now that embody these qualities.  You can check out 321 Main Street, 22 Oak Knoll Road, 285 West Lane and 258 Black Rock Turnpike, just to name a few.

Upper-level living rooms—sometimes labeled “pajama lounges”—are usually located right off bedrooms. They may include comfy sofas, a kitchenette, a television, and even a nook to work from. Architects are removing long hallway spaces upstairs to make room for these central living spaces upstairs.

The lounge area is intended for “the bedrooms [to] spill out, and the family can have a space to assemble,” says Kobi Karp, an architect in Miami who recently designed an upper-level living room in one of his projects. “It’s where you go on a Sunday morning and wait for the rest of the house to wake up.”

Upper-level living rooms tend to be more casual than their lower counterparts. They also tend to have recessed lighting instead of chandeliers and favor cozier seating areas over larger sectionals.

As families create new functions for classic spaces, it’s nice to see a trend recognizing the value that an antique home’s architecture and design brings to a modern world.

Source: “The Living Room Moves Upstairs,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 23, 2017)

Ridgefield’s 2017 Mid-Year Market Report

The first half of 2017 had sellers chomping at the bit to get their homes on the market early and take advantage of the relatively mild weather. Buyers were also out in full force looking to move when the school year ended and take advantage of the increased inventory. A very wet spring curtailed some of the action but unit sales have still surpassed 2016 by 17%, which is encouraging for steady growth. While home values have not risen, we have seen a competitive marketplace with multiple offers and homes selling for more than the asking price on numerous occasions. Also interesting is the segmentation that seems to be occurring in the market with the greatest gains seen in the $500,000-$600,000 and the $800,000-$900,000 categories. This is encouraging for middle-class families who are looking to upsize, downsize or move to the area for our wonderful schools, low crime, superb cultural offerings, family-friendly lifestyle, and proximity to major commerce centers.

Ridgefield Market Snapshot
Overall, the first half of 2017 has been a success for the Ridgefield Real Estate market. Unit sales increased 17.1% from January to June 2017 with 178 parcels selling compared to 152 in the first half of 2016. Total sales volume was also up 6.1% from $118,218,854 last year to $125,453,815 in 2017. The majority of home sales were priced under $1 million. If the market continues at its current pace, we are on track to match or exceed last year’s results.

Sellers Or Buyers Market
Inventory hit a record low in June 2017 with only six months worth of housing available for purchase. While this would suggest a sellers market, it does not yet seem to be playing out that way. The mid-year Sales-to-List Price Ratio held steady at 96.8%, slightly up from 2016’s 96.2%. However, pricing and the condition of the home still seem to be the key to selling with buyers using technology to assess for themselves what they think a property is worth. Sellers are also becoming increasingly savvy by staging and upgrading their homes for a quicker, more profitable sale.

Prices Holding Steady
The Median Sales Price for a single-family home in Ridgefield decreased by 5.0% from $660,000 in the first half of 2016 to $627,000 during the same time period in 2017. The average sales price also decreased from $772,672 to $704,797. Most of the growth in the first half of 2017 was seen in the $500,000 to $900,000 sector with 101 homes sold as compared to only 71 last year.

The Luxury Market
The luxury market – generally defined as homes selling for $1.5 million and above – saw a marked decrease in activity over the first half of 2017. Only two homes sold in this price range – one for $2.9 million and one for $3.1 million. There were no home sales between $1.5 and $2 million, which is unusual. Currently, as of July 1st there are four additional homes in this price range that are either under deposit or under contract to close by Labor Day, and anecdotally activity has picked up with more showings occurring in this price point. Sales were strong in the $1 million to $1.5 million category mimicking 2016 with 21 sales as compared to 22 last year.

Where Are People Buying?
Using Town Hall as the center of the Village, 37% of all sales occurred within a 2 mile radius in what would be considered “in-town” properties. Additionally, these in-town properties commanded a Median Sales Price of $739,000 and an Average Sales Price of $807,288, which is well above the town as a whole. The results support a continuing trend towards more walkable residences. We expect to see in-town properties remain desirable as both younger families escape the city and empty-nesters downsize. Upper end condominiums were also in high demand with five sold that were priced over $700,000, including one priced at $1,860,000.

Sales Up Across The Board
All Fairfield County towns experienced significant growth in the number of homes sold during the first half of 2017, reiterating the fact that individuals and families still consider Fairfield County a great place to live. However, it was a mixed message when it came to median home values with some towns showing double-digit increases, while others saw prices remain relatively flat or somewhat decreased. Traditionally more affordable towns like Stamford and Norwalk saw gains in pricing, while Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding saw values slip. Surprisingly, Westport experienced an almost 10% increase in median home value after seeing decreases during the past two years. Overall, slow but steady growth seems to be what we can expect throughout the county in the upcoming year.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

Staging Your Home Is A Good Idea

According to the National Association of Realtors, sixty-two percent of listing agents say professional staging decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, while 40 percent of buyer’s agents say their clients are more willing to walk through a home that has been staged, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging.

Thirty-one percent of respondents to NAR’s survey say staging increased the dollar value of a home they sold by 1 percent to 5 percent; 13 percent of respondents say it increased a home’s dollar value by 6 percent to 10 percent. Agents on both the buying and selling side agree that the living room is the most important part of a home to stage, followed by the master bedroom, kitchen, and outdoor space.

While these results are self-reported and at the agent’s description, we would have to agree with the findings. Buyers have a lot of choice and we are still in a buyers market. It’s important for a seller to take advantage of every tool they can in order to entice buyers to take the next step. Sellers who staged are also more likely to get top-dollar for their home.

Just like the proliferation of professional and aerial photography, more and more agents are seeing the inherent value of staging and those Realtors who don’t stage will be left behind. The consumer is increasingly comparing apples to oranges online before they even make an appointment with a real estate agent, so a seller’s home needs to be enticing from the get-go.

See the Full Report to compare the buyer and seller perspectives or click to read about our Staging Services.

Redding Home Tour & Open House

On Sunday, July 9th Redding residents are opening their doors to showcase some the most unique homes currently on the market. Join us for the “Classic Antique and Cool Contemporary Home Tour” that will wow you at every turn!

You can pick up a brochure and map at the Redding Library starting at noon on the day of the event. To Preview all the homes on the tour, visit our website. Hope to see you there!

Karla Murtaugh Homes is proud to showcase:

203 Redding Road
Beautiful equestrian property on 3 spectacular, level acres. The site of the first Redding Post office, this charming vintage home has been completely updated for modern living. Hand-hewn beams, 2 stone fireplaces, true divided-light windows & so much more. Modern, open floorplan meets the needs of today’s buyers w/a spacious kitchen w/butcher block island & ample cabinetry, breakfast rm, formal dining rm, expansive living rm & mudroom. Main floor MBRS w/cathedral ceilings, a private deck, loft & sophisticated bath. 4 add’l large BRs, sitting area, light-filled 3-seasoN sunroom & small finished walk-up attic ON 3rd floor. Legal 2BR cottage w/2-car garage. 2 barns, riding ring, multiple paddocks. Close to Georgetown & just over 1hr to NYC.

238 Black Rock Turnpike
Country living at its best! Elegantly renovated & expanded 6BR Federal Colonial home. Completely updated with transitional color palette, gleaming hardwood floors, tons of character and charm. Gorgeous white kitchen w/marble island and counters, updated baths throughout, lovely master suite, vintage detailing. Large bedrooms with ensuite baths plus nanny suite. Tons of closets and storage! Stunning setting with lovely Gunite pool, rolling lawn & perennial gardens. 3-car detached garage plus additional garage/storage. Great commute location close to major routes. Move right in!

Ridgefield Market Report May 2017

The spring market is in full swing and we are seeing new inventory enter the market every day, while existing homes are selling at a faster rate than at the same time last year. We are experiencing good movement at all price points, particularly under $1 million. We also continue to see the ultra high-end luxury market have a few transactions, which is encouraging.

To see how May shook out in Ridgefield real estate , you can click for a snapshot of the market, or a breakdown by price.

MEDIAN SALES PRICE and CLOSED SALES
The number of closed sales is up over the same time last year with 40 properties selling as compared to 26 in 2016. This translates to a 53.8% increase year-over-year. Overall, 125 properties have sold compared to 105 by the same time last year, which represents a 19.0% increase. The median sales price decreased this month from  $686,250 in May 2016 to $564,000 in May 2017. The year-to-date shows a decrease of 5% from $638,000 last year to $606,000 this year.  We expect the median price to increase again given higher priced sales that have entered escrow or are pending.

PROPERTIES UNDER CONTRACT
The number of properties that went under contract took a huge jump over last year with 96 properties under contract compared to only 28 in 2016.  This represents a 243% increase. Overall in 2017 we have seen an 56% increase in buyers jumping into the market, with 198 properties going under contract since the beginning of the year, compared to 127 last year.

DAYS ON MARKET and INVENTORY
We are still dealing with a shortage of properties available for sale this month.  The months of inventory has decreased to only 4.5 months, – which is even less than April’s 5.4 months. 87 new properties entered the market this month, compared with 83 last year.  Overall, we have 3% less properties entering the market this year than at the same time last year. The average days on market has decreased slightly over May 2016 with homes spending an average of 155 days instead of 191.

Early June continues to bring strong  interest in the market from both buyers and sellers. Don’t wait !  Take advantage of my complimentary Comparative Market Analysis to find out what your home’s worth.

We continue to lead the market with the most comprehensive, proven marketing initiatives allowing your home to be in front of the widest audience possible on a local, regional, national and global level.  We recognize your home is your biggest asset and both Buyers and Sellers experience an unparalleled level of customer service when working with us.