Residents in These 5 States May Have to Wear Masks Again

Face mask required sign
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Just when you thought it was safe go out in public without a mask, residents in five states are being told they may have to don their face coverings once again.

Yes, that means the vaccinated among them as well.

As the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads, some local communities are asking — or ordering — residents to return to wearing face coverings in public, whether vaccinated or not. Other communities are considering implementing such advisories.

States with authorities either making these requests now or considering doing so include the following.

California

Surfer statue with mask in Santa Cruz, California
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Several counties in the Golden State have asked all residents to wear masks in public locations. For example, in the Bay Area, just one county — Solano County — does not have a mask advisory. In Los Angeles County, residents are required to wear a mask when in indoor public spaces.

Nevada

Worker in a mask at the Bellagio in Las Vegas
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In Clark County, Nevada — home to Las Vegas — employees of businesses are required to wear masks while working in indoor public spaces as of this week. The mandate will remain in place at least through Aug. 17.

Officials say hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients, and county leaders need time and space to try to boost the county’s low vaccination rate.

Louisiana

Man in a New Orleans Saints mask
William A. Morgan / Shutterstock.com

A sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases in New Orleans has officials weighing whether to reinstate a mask mandate.

Thus far, nothing has been decided. But a spokesman for the city’s mayor said rules involving masks are “certainly a strong possibility.”

Massachusetts

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Lewis Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

In Provincetown, Massachusetts, officials have issued a new mask advisory as COVID-19 cases rise. People are being asked to wear masks in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

It appears that an outbreak of some 130 cases following July 4 celebrations triggered the new advisory. And in a troubling development that is being repeated elsewhere, many of those who tested positive were fully vaccinated.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy with Secretary Marcia Fudge
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNBC he hopes to avoid reinstating a mask mandate. He would like to continue to push for more residents to become vaccinated instead.

But he admits rising COVID-19 rates could force his hand:

“For the time being, I hope we don’t have to do that. If we have to, we will.”

Why do vaccinated people have to wear masks?

Annoyed woman in a mask using hand sanitizer
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If you are wondering why vaccinated people need to return to covering their faces, join the club.

Everyone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the White House has at some point said that you do not need to wear face coverings if you are fully protected against the virus.

But others disagree. Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, offered seven reasons to SFGATE as to why vaccinated people should return to wearing masks.

Wachter’s list ranges from the small but real risk of a breakthrough infection (meaning an infection in someone who has been vaccinated) to the fact that the vaccine’s protective effect might be waning for those who were vaccinated many months ago.

As he told SFGATE:

“I’m still comfortable going maskless in a small social gathering when I’m 100% sure everyone is vaccinated, or 100% sure that any unvaccinated person is wearing a mask. I don’t know how I can be sure about the latter, and even the former is tricky unless it’s a small, trusted group.”

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Source: moneytalksnews.com

Does a High Credit Score Lower Car Insurance

You probably already know how your credit score can affect interest rates for any mortgages, loans, and credit cards you take out. But what about car insurance? Does having a good credit score lower the premiums you’ll pay for it?

The answer is “mostly yes,” as this article will attempt to explain. In all states except California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, car insurance companies can use your credit score to determine your likelihood to pay, as well as to judge the risk you pose on the road. And while that may sound good on the surface, it does carry a fair bit of controversy.

How Car Insurance Companies Use Your Credit Score 

Many car insurance companies (except in the three states mentioned above) confidently use your credit score to come up with car insurance plans, primarily because multiple studies have shown that individuals with high credit scores tend to get into fewer road accidents than their low-scoring counterparts.

Unfortunately, the “score” these car insurance companies come up with is NOT exactly the credit score determined by FICO. Each individual car insurance company is free to consider any of the 30+ financial factors that make up the FICO score – and is likewise free to leave out any of those factors – in coming up with their own “score.”

And here’s the shady part: These car insurance companies are actually not obliged by law to tell you how they came up with their scores. That means they can put more weight on, say, how diligently you pay your bills, instead of putting more significance on your road safety track record.

On the other hand, most reputable car insurance companies do come up with fairly accurate “scores” to use in working out insurance plans. And the trend is still evident: The higher your credit score, the lower your premiums will be.

So What Should You Do? 

So as you can see, the way car insurance companies calculate how much you’ll need to pay each year is controversial at best. But it is how it is, and until things change, the best we can do is to make the most of it. Here’s how to make sure you find the best possible rates for your car insurance policy:

#1: Keep your credit score up. Keep a tab on your credit score, correct any mistakes you may find on your credit history, pay your bills on time, and use only 30% of your available credit. Remember, the higher your FICO score, the more you’ll save on car insurance premiums – even if there’s no way to tell exactly how much.

#2: Drive safely. Obey traffic rules, avoid getting into accidents, keep your papers up-to-date, and avoid whatever leads you to road rage. Car insurance companies WILL look into your road safety record when coming up with your policy.

#3: Shop around. Get quotes from as many reputable car insurance companies as you can afford to. While we can’t find out HOW they come up with their policies, we CAN compare prices.

Source: creditabsolute.com

What You Need to Know Before You Move to Massachusetts

When it comes to the New England region, Massachusetts is the most populous state. Home to prestigious schools, many historic sites, and booming businesses, this coastal state has become the sixth-most popular destination for foreign travelers. The Bay State is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Great for urbanites and nature lovers alike, Massachusetts has a variety of different communities and regions.

Boston SkylineBoston Skyline

Housing Trends in Massachusetts

Since Massachusetts is a popular state, you’ll want to get on board with home scouting quickly. One of the most prominent housing trends in Massachusetts is the lack of supply. This shortage has created a surge on home prices according to a recent statement by the Eric Berman, director at the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. In fact, there were fewer than 10,000 single-family homes for sale in December and January in Massachusetts, compared to 38,000 in September 2006.

A Seller’s Market

Yes, it’s a seller’s market in Massachusetts. Here’s the lowdown. Although single-family home sales in January were slightly down — 1.2 percent — compared with the same period last year, the median price jumped 4 percent to $369,000, per the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. For condominiums, the median price increased more than 6 percent to $355,000 for the month of January, though sales fell by about 7 percent.

Why the price hikes? It’s due in part to the lack of available land for new construction. Also, in some of the more affluent areas, people seem to be staying put in favor of remodeling or adding extra space. Together, these decisions may limit housing supply – at least in some areas – for first-time buyers and moderate budgets.

Renting in and Around Massachusetts

Should you rent instead? If the idea of buying appeals to you but you just can’t pull it off, renting may be an option. The average rent for an apartment in Boston is $3,001, a 3% increase compared to $2,925 in 2017. For this price, you may get – on average – 815 to 986 square feet.

But other cities may be more reasonable. As of May 2018, the average rent for an apartment in Springfield was $1,061 which is a 0.94% increase from last year when the average rent was $1051, and a 1.23% increase from April 2018 when the average rent was $1048. Naturally, you need to factor in your location needs and maximum tolerance for commuting.

Primary Housing Styles in Massachusetts

With a history of settlement since the Pilgrims in 1620, New England boasts a spectrum of architectural styles that are older and more varied than in any other part of the country. One of these, not surprisingly, is the Cape Cod. It is one of America’s oldest home styles and has a very cozy feel. Other popular styles include an easy-living ranch and a country-style with a wrap-around porch.

Harvard SquareHarvard Square

Multi-Faceted Massachusetts

Massachusetts has something to offer whether you prefer the beach or big city bustle. Here are a few places to keep in mind when you are ready to put down some roots. What is your neighborhood style?

  • The Quainter Side of MA: To experience the quainter side of Massachusetts, you may want to head about an hour’s drive north of Boston to the seaside town of Rockport for, yes, rocky beaches, seagulls, and probably a lobster roll. Marblehead, a town of about 20,000 people, is less than an hour north of Boston and is often called the birthplace of the American Navy. Its known for its yachting, sailing, kayaking, etc.
  • Mountain Hip: Great Barrington has a Railroad Street, the Guthrie Center, eateries and folk music with some skiing close by if you like winter sports.
  • Outdoor Adventure: 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through Massachusetts, so get your hiking boots and head out for a long-distance or day hike. Or walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites in Boston.
  • Way Cool: Three of Boston’s neighborhoods get high marks for cool and are cited by the Boston Globe: (1) Jamaica Plain as “edgy cool,” (2) Allston – Brighton as well-educated and “up-and-coming,” and (3) Davis Square for trendy, walkable, and “prime hipness.”
  • Charmed I’m Sure: Massachusetts really turns up the charm in Cambridge. A classic university town, here you can find cobblestone streets, musicians busking, street vendor artists and small cafes. Harvard Square in the center is always action filled and great for people watching.
  • Great Day for a Swim: Woods Hole in southern Cape Cod could make for a perfect day at the beach. This area shows off a great bike path along the coast leading to Falmouth, golden beaches, aquariums devoted to marine biology, shops, and the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Provincetown, aka P-town, is another Cape Cod city that attracts events like the International Film Festival, a strong LGBTQ community, art galleries, and craft stores.
  • High Crime: North Adams, Fall River, and Brockton are areas to watch for. You can also check current FBI stats to help you determine whether to pass through or put down roots.
  • Tech-Savvy: Cambridge is home to MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology so there’s potential recruiter heaven. According to Built in Boston, there are 50 start-ups to watch over the next year, as Boston’s tech sector flourishes and venture capital firms pour money into edtech, fintech, and healthtech.

It seems that modern Massachusetts is also somewhat of a global leader in biotech, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade. Perhaps this is why Forbes ranks Boston #30 in its list of Best Places for Business and Careers and #77 in job growth.

Find Your Perfect Home in Massachusetts

We can help you find your perfect home in Massachusetts. Whether it is to rent or buy, start your search on Homes.com today!


Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana’s versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.

Source: homes.com

Buying an Old House? – Common Problems, Hidden Costs & Benefits

America has lots of old houses. According to Eye on Housing, the average owner-occupied structure was about 37 years old in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. For reference, that’s nearly the U.S. median age of 38.2.

In some parts of the country, the housing stock is far older. On average, owner-occupied housing in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania is more than 50 years old. Though there are exceptions to the rule, homes tend to be older throughout the Northeast and Midwest and in urban cores across the country.

By contrast, newer homes and bona fide new construction homes are more common in Southern and Western cities in general, and in suburban and exurban communities across the country. For example, the median age of owner-occupied homes in Nevada is barely 20 years old.

What Counts As an Older Home?

As a general rule of thumb, homes built after 1990 are considered newer, and homes built before 1920 are considered old or antique. But housing age is a subjective condition that turns on numerous factors, including construction style and quality, local climate and geology, and work done over the life of the home.

The most important factors include:

  • Construction Style and Quality. Prefabricated and mobile homes are generally constructed to lower quality standards than solidly built Tudors, Craftsmans, or Colonials. Mass-produced houses, which tend to be newer, can have quality issues as well. However, custom-built new homes may be constructed even more solidly and durably than older homes. Ultimately, construction quality comes down to the quality of the materials used and the skill and diligence of the builders.
  • Climate and Geology. Climate — particularly humidity, temperature extremes, and storms — accelerate the aging process. Homes in the eastern half of the U.S. are more likely to experience problems attributable to these issues, such as roof damage and basement or foundation moisture, than homes in coastal California cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Geological factors that can accelerate the aging process include seismic activity, sinkholes and limestone geology, and high water tables.
  • Renovations. In some cases, antique homes are updated so dramatically that it’s difficult to define their age any longer. For instance, my wife’s parents owned a farmhouse built in the 1880s. But successive owners thoroughly updated, modernized, and expanded the house over the years. In fact, the only original components are an old cinder block foundation and basement (now completely encased by a newer, expanded foundation and basement) and a few structural supports rising above the original footprint. Most other components date from the 1970s or later. So is it really fair to say the house is an original 1880s farmhouse?

Common Older Home Problems & Potential Solutions

Even well-maintained older homes can present problems that owners of newer homes simply don’t need to deal with. These include health hazards such as asbestos and mold, serious pest problems that can lead to structural issues, and issues with utility systems like wiring and plumbing.

1. Lead and Asbestos

Lead and asbestos are two hazardous materials that were used in residential applications until relatively recently.

Lead is a neurotoxic metal that’s particularly harmful to children. It’s commonly found in exterior and interior paint made before 1978. It’s also found in substantial quantities in pre-World War II plumbing systems and in smaller quantities in water pipes installed before the mid-1980s.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that causes a serious form of lung cancer and other respiratory problems. It was a ubiquitous insulation and fireproofing material until the mid-1970s. Successive EPA actions banned most asbestos applications by the late 1980s, but the agency never required building owners to remove existing asbestos products. Accordingly, many older crawlspaces, walls, and pipes still contain asbestos insulation.

If you determine that you need professional help to deal with either of these environmental issues, use a resource like HomeAdvisor to find reputable, pre-vetted contractors in your area.

Possible Solutions: Lead

When you buy a home built before 1978, you’re usually required to affirm your understanding that the home may contain lead paint. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of coexisting with lead paint, invest in professional lead paint removal services. According to HouseLogic, professional removal costs $8 to $15 per square foot. The medical literature isn’t conclusive on the matter, but removal is recommended for homeowners with small children.

If your home’s plumbing system is very old, it could still contain measurable quantities of lead. The most cost-effective way to deal with this is a water filtration system, either for the entire house ($1,000 to $3,000, depending on house size and system quality) or the kitchen tap ($200 to $1,000, depending on brand and quality). Replacing the home’s entire piping system is the only way to ensure totally lead-free water, but doing so can cost upward of $5,000.

Possible Solutions: Asbestos

Though direct, prolonged exposure to asbestos is a serious health hazard, insulation tucked away in inaccessible walls is not likely to pose a direct risk. However, removal is recommended if you plan on knocking down walls, expanding your home’s footprint, or attempting other expansive projects likely to uncover asbestos-laden material.

Asbestos removal costs vary greatly by project size. A single pipe or wall runs in the high three- or low four-figure range, while a whole-house project costs $20,000 to $30,000.


2. Termite Damage

Over time, termites can devastate homes’ wooden and wood-like components, including floors, structural supports, and drywall. The problem is particularly acute in the southern half of the country, where termites are active for most or all of the year. Older homes are more likely to have active termite infestations or preexisting termite damage due to compromised foundations or drywall.

Depending on the length and severity of the infestation, termite damage repairs can range from cosmetic fixes (such as replacing damaged floorboards) that cost a few hundred dollars to structural remediation projects that can cost $10,000 or more.

Signs of termite damage include:

  • Sagging or buckling floors
  • Pinpoint holes in drywall
  • Hollow-sounding wood supports or floorboards
  • Bubbling or peeling paint

Possible Solutions

Prevention is the cheapest and least invasive termite solution. Remove all loose wood vectors — including shrubbery, mulch, building materials, and stacked firewood — from contact with the lowermost portion of your house. Prevent water from pooling near or against your home’s foundation by filling in low ground or installing a surface drainage system. Use treated lumber (toxic to termites) for decks and other wooden structures attached to your house. Remove dead stumps and root systems from areas near the house. And seal visible foundation cracks, which provide ready entry for termites.

For infestations in progress, hire a pest control professional to shrink or eliminate the colony. Exterminators typically charge $3 to $16 per linear foot (as measured around the home’s perimeter), according to HomeAdvisor. The average home’s perimeter ranges from 150 to 200 feet, so expect comprehensive treatment to cost anywhere from $450 to $3,200. But bear in mind that your actual all-in cost will depend on the foundation type and the infestation’s severity.

If you catch the problem before you buy, perhaps during a professional home inspection ($200 to $500), get a repair estimate from a general contractor. Then negotiate with the seller to cover part or all of the repair costs, as well as the cost of professional pest control services if the infestation is in progress


3. Mold and Mildew Damage

Over time, homes exposed to excessive moisture often develop mold and mildew problems. Though particularly common in basements and bathrooms of wet-climate homes, moisture-related microorganism growth can occur anywhere. The problem is more likely to occur in old homes because moisture more readily seeps through cracked foundations and leaky pipes. However, since infestations can start inside walls, it’s possible to walk through a mold-infested older home for sale without realizing there’s a problem.

While small amounts of indoor mold growth are permissible and even expected, uncontrolled growth can exacerbate allergies and existing respiratory problems (such as asthma) in healthy children and adults. More serious infections can develop in the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

Also, mold eats away at its host surfaces, particularly wood, drywall, grout, and other porous or semiporous substances. Unchecked mold infestations can cause structural problems and render a home temporarily or permanently uninhabitable.

Possible Solutions

Your mold and mildew solution will depend on the severity of the problem:

  • Prevention: As with termite infestations, the best solution to mold and mildew is prevention. Buying a dehumidifier (anywhere from $100 to $500 new, plus $30 to $100 in annual electricity costs) for your basement can work wonders. Ensuring proper ventilation through a combination of floor or ceiling fans and open windows during dry, mild weather can help on higher floors.
  • Minor Infestations: You can treat small mold infestations, such as on an isolated area of a basement or bathroom wall, with store-bought mold spray, abrasive sponges or brushes, kitchen gloves, and lots of elbow grease.
  • Major Infestations.: For larger infestations, the spray-and-scrub approach is impractical. According to HGTV, whole-home mold remediation can cost as much as $5,000 and possibly more if the infestation affects hard-to-reach areas like the attic, basement crawl spaces, or inside the walls. To reduce remediation costs, make sure your homeowners insurance policy covers mold cleanup before you buy an older home, and consider switching policies (using a comparison engine like PolicyGenius to save time) if your policy doesn’t.

4. Plumbing Problems

The biggest danger of an old or substandard plumbing system is the possibility of a pipe failure that floods the home or causes major water damage in the walls and floors. A serious failure can temporarily render the home uninhabitable and cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up, though the damage is often covered by homeowners insurance. It can also cause longer-term problems, such as mold infestations.

Before purchasing an older home, ask the seller how old the plumbing system is and about the material used in supply and drain pipes. Whereas brass and copper pipes typically last 50 years or more, steel pipes can wear out after as little as 20, according to HouseLogic. Pipes made from PEX, an increasingly common plastic material, typically last 40 or 50 years.

Special care is warranted if the pipes are made of polybutylene, a grayish, flexible plastic material used from the 1970s to the 1990s. Chlorine, which is found in bleach and other household cleaners, corrodes polybutylene pipes over time and can lead to spontaneous failure.

Root damage is another old home plumbing issue that’s particularly common in heavily vegetated neighborhoods. Over time, tree roots work their way into older drainage pipes under or outside the home’s foundation, busting through pipe joints and tapping the year-round supply of nutrient-rich water flowing within.

Without proper maintenance, this leads to clogs and backups that can interrupt washing routines and cause water damage in low-lying parts of the house. Remember that tree roots can travel a long way underground. There may be no obvious culprit near your main drain outlet, but that mature tree across the street or around the side of your house could be responsible.

Possible Solutions: Pipes

If you’re eying a home with polybutylene pipes, ask the seller to install (and pay for) new pipes. If not, consider whether you can put up with the inconvenience and cost of replacing the pipes yourself, which you should do as soon as your budget allows to minimize failure risk.

For other common pipe materials, you simply need to ascertain the system’s age and target a date several years before the end of its life expectancy. If you plan on still owning the house when that date arrives, begin saving for a full system replacement now, keeping in mind the effects of inflation.

In a 1,500 square-foot house, whole-house pipe replacement costs range from $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the pipe material, size and floor count of the house, and number of water fixtures, according to HouseLogic.

Possible Solutions: Root Damage

Root damage fixes can be even costlier. Replacing a root-infested main drain pipe typically requires excavation, a notorious cost multiplier. Expect to pay up to $25,000, depending on the length of the pipe and required depth of excavation, per HomeAdvisor.

Root-and-line jobs, which remove existing roots and install impermeable liners that prevent further intrusion, are nearly as expensive: $5,000 to $15,000, on average.

Periodic root removals, which need to be repeated every couple years, are much easier on the wallet: anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to around $1,000, depending on the severity of the problem.


5. Foundation or Structural Problems

Over time, nature catches up with even the most solidly built homes. Older homes are prone to a variety of foundation and structural problems, such as:

  • Major cracks or unevenness in the slab or perimeter foundation wall
  • Corrosion, dry rot, or moisture damage in pilings or concrete foundation supports
  • Damaged piers (support footings)
  • Dry rot or moisture damage in above-ground studs

These issues are particularly common, and tend to occur sooner, in regions with abundant soil moisture, unstable bedrock, seismic activity, and other perils. Though alert homeowners generally catch structural problems before they render homes uninhabitable, remediation is costly and inconvenient.

Signs of foundation or structural problems include:

  • Doors that jam or fail to latch
  • Visible wall cracks that grow over time
  • Cracked tile or concrete floors
  • Persistently stuck windows
  • Floors that are clearly off-level

Possible Solutions

Any apparent foundation or structural issue requires an expert opinion from a structural engineer ($500, on average). Addressing a modest foundation issue, such as a crack in the perimeter wall, can cost a few hundred dollars. More serious problems, such as uneven soil that requires support piers underneath the foundation, can cost $10,000 or more. And in seismically active areas, foundation anchor bolts are required or recommended — at a cost of at least $1,500 apiece. Many homeowners insurance policies don’t cover these costs.

If the foundation requires extensive repair or wholesale replacement, costs can quickly escalate. Expect to pay a minimum of $20,000 to raise your home and replace the foundation, per HomeAdvisor. Again, homeowners insurance often doesn’t cover these costs. If you’re seriously thinking about buying an older home with obvious foundation damage, factor repair costs into your offer price or ask the seller to address the problems before closing.

Also, note that the cost of repairing secondary issues related to foundation damage (such as damaged upper-level flooring, walls, and doors) varies greatly and can add substantial expense to your project.


6. Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in certain types of bedrock. The Environmental Protection Agency says that radon tends to persist at higher concentrations in the Northeast, Midwest, and Intermountain West, but it can occur anywhere.

Radon enters homes through cracks in the foundation perimeter and basement walls, which are more common in older homes. The gas then circulates throughout poorly ventilated houses over time. Though it’s not toxic when encountered intermittently and in small doses, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers, and exposure over the generally accepted safe concentration is not recommended for long periods.

Possible Solutions

Radon mitigation typically involves capturing gas in the soil or rock surrounding the foundation and piping it up to a rooftop vent, then sealing foundation cracks to prevent further leakage. It can also involve installing multiple depressurization vents outside the house (venting radon before it reaches the foundation), as well as negative-pressure fans that essentially blow radon from the basement or lowest level back into the soil.

According to Kansas State University, the average cost of a radon mitigation system is about $1,200. But the actual cost can vary between a few hundred dollars to more than $3,000, depending on the home’s size, foundation type, and the problem’s severity.

Amazon sells radon testing kits for less than $15. This can be an inexpensive way to see if you need to call in the professionals.


7. Roof Problems

Older homes tend to have older, possibly deteriorating roofs. This presents numerous problems, including pest infestations, interior water damage, and less-effective insulation. Problems stemming from a compromised roof, particularly once interior leaks begin occurring regularly, can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix and may not be covered by homeowners insurance.

Warning signs of potential roof issues include:

  • Missing or damaged shingles
  • Crumbling roof cement
  • Bowed or sagging gutters
  • Persistent moisture in the attic
  • Evidence of water damage in the upper floors
  • Critters in the attic or upper crawlspaces

Possible Solutions

Before you buy an older home, assess the roof’s age and condition to the best of your ability. Unless the seller put the roof on, they might not be aware of when it was installed, so consider hiring a roof inspector ($100 to $600) if there are obvious signs of wear.

Next, consider the likely lifespan of your current roof and its potential replacement:

  • Shingles. On sloping roofs, asphalt shingles typically remain in good shape for 15 to 20 years. Treated wood shingles last 20 to 30 years.
  • Metal. Metal roofs are typically warranted for 20 to 40 years, though they often last longer and require little maintenance.
  • Tile and Stone. Tile and stone roofs can last up to 100 years with proper installation and maintenance.

Within these categories, construction matters. For example, on sloping shingle roofs, a rubber or thermoplastic coating layer can mean the difference between a roof that goes bust at 15 years and one that keeps on chugging well beyond that. Of course, no matter the material, a roof’s actual lifespan depends on installation quality, prior maintenance record, roof slope, and local climate.

Replacement costs vary greatly by material, but you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to more than $10,000 to replace an entire asphalt shingle roof. Slate (stone) roofs cost $11,000 to $24,000 to replace, on average.

If the roof’s problems are confined to a small area and the roof isn’t near the end of its predicted lifespan, you can save money by replacing or repairing only the damaged section. If the roof is older or widely damaged, it makes long-term financial sense to replace the entire thing, or at least one whole side.


8. Inefficient Windows

Old homes are more likely to have older, inefficient windows. The primary downside of inefficient windows is higher electricity bills because the home’s climate control system has to work harder to compensate for leaks. According to the Federal Government’s ENERGY STAR program, installing the most efficient class of windows in your entire home can reduce your annual electric bill by as much as $600, depending on the size of your home and where you live.

Possible Solutions

Address inefficient windows temporarily with passive heating and cooling methods, such as shutting windows and blinds on hot days and opening them at night, and by using plastic film ($10 to $20, on average) to seal leaks during the winter. Sealing cracks around your windows and reinforcing your home’s insulation, a more permanent solution, can cost upward of $1,000.

The ultimate leaky-windows solution is simply to replace old windows with more efficient ones. While judicious window replacement is often cited as one of the top home improvement projects to reduce long-term homeownership costs, bear in mind that super-efficient windows are costly. Installing them in your entire house could set you back $10,000 or more, meaning you might never earn back your investment.


9. Inadequate or Unsafe Electrical Systems

Electrical problems fall into two categories: convenience and safety.

First, convenience: Unless their electrical systems have been updated, older homes lack sufficient numbers of electrical outlets to address our collective addiction to electronic devices.

Second, and more importantly, safety: The lifespan of electrical wiring itself is limited by the lifespan of the wire’s insulation. Wiring installed before 1960 lasts roughly 70 years, while newer wiring is estimated to last at least 100 years. Once the insulation deteriorates to the point that the actual wire is exposed, the risk of electrical fire, shocks, short circuits, and localized (single- or multiroom) power failures increases dramatically.

Electrical service panels and circuit breakers are also prone to deterioration. Service panels last 60 or 70 years, while breakers last 30 or 40. Failing panels and breakers can cause shock, power failure, fire, and other dangers.

Note that water damage, fire, pest infestation, and other unusual events can harm some or all of an electrical system’s components, necessitating repair or replacement long before they reach their life expectancy.

Possible Solutions

Electrical work is dangerous and confusing for novices, so avoid taking the DIY route with your electrical project. Instead, hire a licensed electrician.

A qualified electrician typically takes 30 to 60 minutes to install a single outlet, at a cost of anywhere from about $100 to about $400. If a new circuit is required, the cost will be higher, though not excessively so.

A new service panel starts at about $500, but a higher-amp option (which may be required for high-power appliances) costs closer to $1,500


10. Failing or Inefficient Mechanicals and Appliances

Old homes are more likely to have old mechanical equipment, such as water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioning units, as well as older household appliances. Mechanical and appliance lifespan varies by item, brand, and workload. On average, expect major mechanical equipment and appliances to age as follows:

  • Water Heater: 10 to 15 years
  • Furnace: 15 to 30 years
  • Central Air Conditioning System: 15 to 25 years
  • Refrigerator: 15 to 20 years
  • Washers and Dryer: 10 to 15 years

Equipment near the end of its useful life is more prone to failure, raising the possibility of an inconvenient or dangerous situation — such as the heat going out in the dead of winter or an electrical fire — that needs to be addressed immediately. Moreover, older equipment is usually less energy-efficient, resulting in ballooning utility costs.

Possible Solutions

Older homes with recently updated mechanical equipment and appliances typically fetch a premium. If you’re fine with buying older mechanicals and appliances, research each unit and determine about how much longer it can be expected to last. Draw up a replacement schedule commensurate with your time horizon and begin saving for the most pressing projects. If your furnace has 15 years left and you plan on selling in five, replacement isn’t necessary.

Mechanical and appliance replacement costs vary by item and brand. For instance, natural gas furnaces, ideal for colder climates, cost about $2,000 to $4,000, on average. Heat pumps, sufficient in warmer climes, cost less. Efficient tankless water heaters can cost as much as $6,000, though the average installation cost (per Fixr) is closer to $2,000. Traditional tank heaters cost even less, in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

If you plan ahead to replace your old water heater or laundry machine, finding room in your household budget won’t be an impossible task. Set up an interest-bearing, FDIC-insured savings or money market account earmarked specifically for the project.

An unexpected replacement can really set you back, particularly if there’s damage involved. A family friend recently had to replace his old dryer after a massive electrical fire was sparked by faulty wiring and exacerbated by a clogged dryer vent. Including cleanup, the bill came to more than $20,000, though his homeowners insurance policy covered most of the cost.


11. Unhelpful, Unfinished, or Outdated Updates

Older homes typically have more than one previous resident, and sometimes a lot more. All those past homeowners had license to do what they wished with the property.

While many older homes retain the charm and function of their original construction, others have a host of unhelpful or anachronistic updates that detract from the homeowner’s experience and potentially add to the cost of ownership. Particularly costly updates that may need to be rectified shortly after moving in include:

  • Poorly designed, inadequate, or simply tasteless kitchens
  • Illegal basement bedrooms (lacking egress windows, for instance)
  • Incomplete projects, such as a partially finished basement or partially laid patio

Before we bought our current house, my wife and I went to an open house at a 100-year-old home with a half-finished basement , half-finished screen porch, and a literally transparent exterior paint job. The home had been purchased just a few months earlier for far less than the current asking price, suggesting the current owner had attempted to flip the house and had become overwhelmed. Our real estate agent remarked, “It looks like this guy ran out of money and bailed.”

Possible Solutions

As long as they’re not unsafe, you can live with unhelpful or outdated features until you have room in your budget to fix them. The cost of said fixes varies widely. A full kitchen update typically runs into five-figure territory, while replacing outdated moldings or rectifying a hideous interior paint job might cost only a few hundred.

Half-finished add-ons, such as the porch at the abandoned flip mentioned above, are another matter. They can be unsafe, particularly for small children, and may provide access points for insects and rodents. Think twice about buying an older home with too many wonky updates or haphazard design touches, as they often disguise bigger problems.

For instance, we found out later that the abandoned flip had serious foundation problems that would cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The scale of the foundation issue likely compelled the flipper to walk away from the property before completing the job.


12. Substandard or Unsafe Features

Older homes sometimes have too much charm. Depending on the style, location, and history of a particular house, some original features may be obsolete, not up to current building codes, or actually unsafe. Examples include:

  • Old laundry chutes
  • Servants’ staircases
  • Staircases leading nowhere (commonplace in houses that were once divided into multiple dwelling units)
  • Steep staircases
  • Low ceilings
  • Blocked-off chimneys
  • Nonworking fireplaces.

Our current home is by far the nicest place we’ve ever lived, but it nevertheless has a steep, winding staircase we’d feel uncomfortable allowing a toddler to traverse, as well as an obsolete chimney that’s showing early signs of deterioration.

Possible Solutions

Many jurisdictions are lenient about substandard or against-code features in owner-occupied residences, relative to rental or commercial properties. Accordingly, you likely won’t be required to fix such issues (unless they threaten other properties) after taking possession of your older home. However, fixing these issues can preserve or increase your home’s value, not to mention enhance the safety and comfort of its occupants.

Some problems have straightforward, affordable solutions. For example, childproofing our steep staircase simply involves installing a latching door or child gate at the entrance. Others, such as a crumbling chimney, require regular upkeep (repairing flashing and any damaged roof materials) that can cost a few hundred dollars per year.


Potential Benefits of Owning an Older Home

You wouldn’t guess it from the litany of potential problems owners of old houses can face, but old-home ownership has its benefits too. Older homes are often conveniently located in established, amenity-rich neighborhoods; inside, they offer abundant charm and equity-building opportunities.

1. Convenient Location

Because most cities grow outward over time, older homes tend to be located closer to employer- and amenity-rich downtown cores. A convenient location offers many time-saving and healthful benefits, such as shorter commutes (and the opportunity to use public transit or commute by bike) and easier shopping trips.

By contrast, newer owner-occupied homes tend to be built where land is cheapest, often on the edges of existing towns and cities. Such places aren’t always convenient.

However, these rules aren’t universal. Big cities have plenty of newly built condos downtown or close by, and many rural homes are quite old.

2. Hard-to-Duplicate Original Features

Though some older homes lack character, many showcase charming, period-specific features that are pleasing to the eye and may increase resale value. For instance, the built-in storage and display cabinets in our older home’s dining room definitely influenced our purchasing decision because it was both aesthetically pleasing and practical. In our region, the only new homes that contain such built-in furnishings were well out of our price range and preferred neighborhood.

3. More Established Neighborhood

In towns and cities, older homes are often located in established neighborhoods with long-term homeowners who care about the area and community, mature landscaping and tree cover, and a general sense of community. Such areas are also more likely to be connected to municipal infrastructure, such as sewer and water systems.

By contrast, less-established neighborhoods tend to have less community engagement, particularly if the homes are very new and most residents are busy professionals without the time to engage their neighbors. Plus, newer subdivisions look bleak until newly planted trees and shrubs fill out.

4. Potential for Better Construction Quality

Depending on the building style and location, an older home may be constructed more solidly and durably than newer homes. This is particularly true for budget-friendly new homes in recent subdivisions, which are typically built by big companies with the ability to cheaply mass-produce the structures.

Then again, some of America’s original suburbs were mass-produced housing tracts built shortly after World War II. When considering any home built to standardized specifications, learn as much as possible about the materials, methods, and labor used by the construction company.

5. More Opportunities to Build Equity

Creative, enterprising, diligent homeowners see opportunity in older homes’ shortcomings. Every poorly designed kitchen, unfinished basement, or non-landscaped yard is a project in waiting. A well-chosen, well-executed renovation or update can boost a home’s appraised value, and its eventual resale value, by more than the project’s cost.

Your budget is likely to limit the scope of your vision, particularly right after you move in. But equity-building projects become more manageable when they’re planned and budgeted for well ahead of time. My wife and I are already kicking around ideas (and saving) for a finished basement and brand-new detached garage, even though we won’t start on either project anytime soon.


Final Word

Even a charming, beautifully staged older home in a convenient, tight-knit neighborhood is likely to have some of the drawbacks mentioned above. If you choose to fix most or all issues as they arise, you’ll likely end up spending tens of thousands of dollars during your time in the home.

Alternatively, if you choose to ignore serious issues or do only the bare minimum to fix them, you’ll likely have to accept a lower sales price or cover the cost of major repairs just before selling. Either way, you could limit or negate the overall return on your real estate investment by purchasing an older home.

That’s not to say that newer homes don’t require major repair and upkeep investments over time. And new homes often come with additional expenses that owners of older homes aren’t likely to face, such as homeowners association fees. Ultimately, it’s more important to choose the home that feels right to you and your family than to obsess over what could go wrong with your new abode.

Source: moneycrashers.com

15 Real Estate Markets Offering the Most Bang for Your Buck

Happy couple buying a home in a new city
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Porch.

The classic saying in real estate is “Location, location, location.” Everyone who buys a home knows that where homes are located — by market, by neighborhood, and even by block — can cause wide variation in what they will list and ultimately sell for.

Changes in the real estate market during the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted some of the calculus when it comes to choosing both the location and the particular home. On the one hand, low interest rates have increased the amount of money buyers are willing to spend, as evidenced in part by the ratio of contractor-built to owner-built housing starts. When interest rates are high, many potential buyers opt to build their own home as a way to save money, pushing the ratio down. Conversely, when interest rates are low, buyers are more willing to pay a premium on a home that someone else built, and the ratio rises.

Alongside lower mortgage rates and the corresponding increase in what buyers are willing to spend, COVID-19 has ushered in a resurgence of interest in large homes. With more people transitioning to virtual work and schooling, many previously high-demand markets have cooled off, while lower-cost markets offering larger houses and more “bang-for-the-buck” have new appeal.

Large metros offering the best “bang-for-the-buck”

goodluz / Shutterstock.com

To find the real estate markets where buyers can get the most for their money, researchers at Porch analyzed data from Zillow, Realtor.com, and the U.S. Census Bureau. They created a composite score based on five key metrics related to price, affordability, home size, and the recent and projected changes in value.

At the state level, Kansas leads the nation by a large margin, followed by a number of other lower-cost states in the South and Midwest. Notably absent from the top of the list are coastal states like California and Massachusetts, where price per square foot and home payments as a share of income are much higher than in the rest of the country.

At the metro level, it is unsurprising to find that many of the best bang-for-the-buck markets are located in the same states that rate highly for value. Oft-overlooked large metros like Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Cleveland top the list, a function of low housing costs both on a per-square-foot basis and as a share of income.

Here are the best large “bang-for-the-buck” real estate markets.

15. Phoenix, AZ

Aerial view of Phoenix, Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 78.6
  • Median list price: $403,792
  • Price per square foot: $201.21
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 25.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,121
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.9%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +16.1%

14. Rochester, NY

Rochester New York
TarnPisessith / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 78.8
  • Median list price: $236,986
  • Price per square foot: $125.99
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 16.2%
  • Median home size (square feet): 1,761
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +11.3%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +8.9%

13. Richmond, VA

Richmond Virginia homes
Noel V. Baebler / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 79.2
  • Median list price: $347,950
  • Price per square foot: $156.34
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,207
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.5%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.1%

12. Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids Michigan homes houses
Fsendek / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 79.5
  • Median list price: $306,125
  • Price per square foot: $150.52
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 19.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,018
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +6.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +12.0%

11. San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, Texas home
Natalia Silyanov / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 79.9
  • Median list price: $301,805
  • Price per square foot: $144.93
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,220
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +1.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +11.1%

10. Oklahoma City, OK

Shane Wilson Link / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 80.0
  • Median list price: $268,581
  • Price per square foot: $130.13
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.7%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,105
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +8.1%

9. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

Dallas, Texas Homes
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 81.1
  • Median list price: $351,276
  • Price per square foot: $152.27
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,320
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +1.0%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +12.6%

8. Houston, TX

Houston homes neighborhood
Stephanie A Sellers / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 82.1
  • Median list price: $322,206
  • Price per square foot: $136.89
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 19.6%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,368
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +2.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.8%

7. Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Alabama home
Carolyn May Wright / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 82.9
  • Median list price: $263,736
  • Price per square foot: $122.40
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,091
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +11.7%

6. Charlotte, NC

Home surrounded by greenery in Charlotte,NC.
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 83.1
  • Median list price: $358,347
  • Price per square foot: $153.40
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 23.3%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,331
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.1%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +15.1%

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
Rigucci / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 83.1
  • Median list price: $491,591
  • Price per square foot: $191.74
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 27.0%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,664
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +13.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +16.0%

4. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh North Carolina home
KAD Photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 83.2
  • Median list price: $378,824
  • Price per square foot: $154.92
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,480
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +3.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.0%

3. Cleveland, OH

Woman eating breakfast
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 83.8
  • Median list price: $208,061
  • Price per square foot: $98.97
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 15.2%
  • Median home size (square feet): 1,901
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +6.2%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.4%

2. Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Missouri homes
Sabrina Janelle / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 84.6
  • Median list price: $338,726
  • Price per square foot: $145.98
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,294
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +9.3%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.8%

1. Indianapolis, IN

winter scene homes in Indianapolis, Indiana
Ted Alexander Somerville / Shutterstock.com
  • Composite score: 87.0
  • Median list price: $283,562
  • Price per square foot: $113.70
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,308
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.5%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.1%

Detailed findings & methodology

real estate agent realtor
Sean Locke Photography / Shutterstock.com

The data used in this analysis is from Zillow, Realtor.com, and the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine the best “bang-for-the-buck” real estate markets, researchers created a composite score based on the following factors and weights:

  • Price per square foot (40%) – the median price per square foot for 2020
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income (10%) – the estimated monthly mortgage payment based on the median list price and median household income; assuming a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a 20% down payment
  • Median home size (20%) – the median home size in square feet for 2020
  • Previous 1-year change in home price (5%) – the average monthly year-over-year change in list price for 2020
  • Projected 1-year change in home price (25%)* – the forecasted one-year change in home price from Zillow

With the exception of the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income, higher values corresponded to a higher score for all factors considered. In the event of a tie, the metro with the lower median listing price was ranked higher. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included.

*Not available for U.S. states.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

The number of Americans driving to work alone is on the rise, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With the increase in drivers comes traffic, which means more time and money spent idling in cars. Some cities are better equipped to deal with the mass of drivers, managing to keep traffic delays and congestion to a minimum. Other cities are equipped with walkable streets and reliable mass transit options, making car ownership less necessary.

Check out mortgage rates in your area.

We considered these and other factors to find the worst cities to own a car. Specifically, we looked at hours spent in traffic per year for the average driver, the annual cost of traffic for the average driver, the rate of motor vehicle theft, the number of repair shops and parking garages per driver, the commuter stress index and the non-driving options a resident has for getting around. To understand where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final ranking, see the data and methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Cities on the coasts â€“ The entire top 10 is comprised of cities on or close to the coasts. This makes sense as many of the largest cities in the country are located on the coasts. Plus, on the East Coast in particular, these cities tend to be older which means they were not built to handle car traffic.
  • Grin and bear it – Traffic can get pretty bad. However, in some cities getting around by car is just about the only option you have if you want to leave your house. Thus some cities with really bad traffic like Los Angeles or Long Beach didn’t quite crack the top 10.

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

1. Newark, New Jersey

Brick City tops our ranking of the worst cities to own a car. What’s tough about being a car owner in Newark is the traffic. It’s part of the New York City metro area which has 19 million people, 5 million of whom drive to work. Newark is stuck right in the middle of this bumper-to-bumper traffic. Plus, if you’re a car owner in Newark, the risk of having your car stolen is much higher than it is in other cities. Newark ranks eighth in the country for motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents.

Related Article: The States With the Worst Drivers

2. San Francisco, California

The City in the Bay grabs the second spot for worst places to own a car. Being stuck in traffic costs the average commuter in San Francisco $1,600 per year. That cost includes both the value of the time spent in traffic and the cost of gas. SF is also one of the 10 worst cities for motor vehicle thefts per resident, another reason to forgo car ownership.

3. Washington, D.C.

The District and the surrounding metro area sees some of the worst traffic in the country. The average D.C. commuter spends 82 hours per year in traffic. Depending on how you slice it, that’s either two working weeks or almost three-and-a-half days of doing nothing but shaking your fist at your fellow drivers. That traffic is equal to an annual cost of $1,834 per commuter.

4. Oakland, California

One argument against car ownership in Oakland is the crime. There were almost 6,400 motor vehicle thefts in the city of Oakland or 15 auto thefts per 1,000 residents. That’s the highest rate in the country. The average Oakland driver can also expect to spend 78 hours per year in traffic. On the plus side, if something goes wrong with your wheels in Oakland, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get it fixed. There are more than six repair shops per 10,000 drivers in Oakland – the highest rate in the top 10.

5. Arlington, Virginia

As previously mentioned, the Washington, D.C. metro area has the worst traffic in the country. Unfortunately for the residents of Arlington, they are a part of that metro area. They face the same brutal 82 hours per year spent in traffic, on average. It costs Arlington residents $1,834 per year, on average, waiting in that traffic. For residents of Arlington, a car is more of a necessity than it is for people living in D.C., which is why it ranks lower in our study.

6. Portland, Oregon

Of all the cities in our top 10, Portland is the least onerous for the driving commuter. Commuters driving around the Portland metro area can be thankful that, on average, they spent only 52 hours per year in traffic. That traffic still costs each driver about $1,200. However, drivers in Portland looking for a parking garage may be out of luck. Portland has the second-lowest number of parking garages per driver in our study, and if you are looking to get your car fixed, Portland ranks in the bottom 13 for repair shops per capita.

7. Anaheim, California

Anaheim commuters are well-acquainted with traffic. Anaheim (and the rest of the Los Angeles metro area) ranks third in average hours per year spent in traffic, first for commuter stress index and fifth for annual cost of idling in traffic. Anaheim only ranks seventh because Walkability.com gives the city a 46 out of 100 for non-driving options. That’s the lowest score in our top 10 meaning, while owning a car here is a pain, not owning one makes getting around a true struggle.

8. New York, New York

New York is the rare American city where public transportation is usually your best bet for getting from point A to point B. All that accessibility makes car ownership unnecessary here. For New Yorkers who do drive, the traffic is not pleasant. New York drivers spend $1,700 per year, on average, waiting in traffic. That’s the third-highest cost in our study.

Not sure if you’re ready to buy in NYC? Check out our rent vs. buy calculator.

9. Seattle, Washington

Seattle has pretty bad traffic. Commuters here probably aren’t surprised to hear the average driver spends 63 hours per year in traffic. And coupled with the traffic is the high number of motor vehicle thefts. Seattle has the fourth-highest rate of motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents in the country.

10. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston ranked well in our study on the most livable cities in the U.S. partially based on how easy it is to get around without a car. After New York and San Francisco, Boston is the most walkable city in the country, making the cost of having a car one expense which Bostonians can possibly go without. Although occasionally maligned, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is a great option for commuters who want to avoid the 64 hours per year Boston drivers spend in traffic.

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

Data and Methodology

In order to rank the worst cities to own a car, we looked at data on the 100 largest cities in the country. Specifically we looked at these seven factors:

  • Average total hours commuters spend in traffic per year. Data comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card.
  • Cost of time spent in traffic per person. This measures the value of extra travel time and the extra fuel consumed by vehicles in traffic. Travel time is calculated at a value of $17.67 per hour per person. Fuel cost per gallon is the average price for each state. Data comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card.
  • Commuter stress index. This metric is developed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. It measures the difference in travel time during peak congestion and during no congestion. A higher ratio equals a larger difference.
  • Non-driving options. This metric measures the necessity of owning a car in each city by considering the city’s walk score, bike score and transit score. We found the average of those three scores for each city. Higher scores mean residents are less reliant on cars. Data comes from Walkability.com.
  • Motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents. Data on population and motor vehicle thefts comes from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police department and city websites. We used the most up to date data available for cities where 2015 data was not available.
  • Number of repair shops per 10,000 drivers. Data on drivers comes from Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. Data on repair shops comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Parking garages per 10,000 drivers. Data on drivers comes from Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. Data on parking garages comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Business Patterns Survey.

We ranked each city across each factor, giving double weight to non-driving options and half weight to motor vehicle thefts per driver, repair shops per driver and parking garages per driver. All other factors received single weight. We then found the average ranking across each city. Finally we gave each city a score based on their average ranking. The city with the highest average received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest average received a score of 0.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/seb_ra

The post The Worst Cities to Own a Car appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

What is Gentrification and What Happens to Neighborhoods that are Gentrified?

Do you love the energetic pace of living in a city but find home prices out of reach? You might explore some of the gentrifying or up-and-coming neighborhoods in your metro area. Despite the bad rap that the word gets, we’ve taken a look at what the term really means and how it can be effective for cities and aspiring homeowners.

A busy corner filled with people waiting at a coffee shop.A busy corner filled with people waiting at a coffee shop.

What Is Gentrification?

Gentrification is one of the by-products of urban sprawl. You can think of it as an expansion to a city’s boundaries. Sometimes, it happens when developers buy industrial properties like warehouses, homes, and abandoned buildings, no longer in use, and gives them a makeover. There may also be empty lots for sale, which is typically not the case within a downtown core.

According to a Governing Magazine report, “gentrification particularly accelerated, though, in recent years as growing numbers of Americans opted to pursue urban lifestyles.”

Most Gentrified Cities in the U.S.

To figure out whether a specific zip code is gentrified, RentCafe conducted a study of the current real estate market. The study took into consideration changes (upward trends) over time based on three data points:

  • Median home value
  • Household income
  • Education (bachelor’s degree and above)

Of their top 20 most gentrified zip codes, 5 were located on the East Coast:

  1. Brooklyn, New York (11211, 11222,11216, 11237, and 11221)
  2. Manhattan, New York (10039 and 10026)
  3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (19123 and 19146)
  4. Washington, DC (20001, 20021 and 20010)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (21224)
Brownstone building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City.Brownstone building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City.

The top spot for most gentrified area went to Gallery Row-Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles. This area is undergoing a huge revitalization of mixed-use developments. This includes renovations to historical properties, an influx of hotels, and a huge transformation to the banks of the Los Angeles River.

In other words, an area that was once avoided is fast-becoming a magnate for all kinds of new tenants and with it, a home value change of 707 percent.

What to Expect When You Move to a Gentrified Neighborhood

Gentrified neighborhoods, as you might imagine are in transition. Often, you’ll find ‘work-in-progress” signs and construction projects underway. What else can you expect when you move to a gentrified neighborhood?

Investment Property

If you want to buy with an eye to the future, a gentrifying neighborhood, one that’s on an upswing, could be a smart investment. Investopedia reports that buying property in a gentrifying part of town can “result in a big windfall if the neighborhood does turn around and the property values increase.” This is also true if you can afford to buy an income property – one you’ll be renting out.

Crime

One study by MIT reports that “gentrification reduces crime rates and increases public safety in city neighborhoods.” Their analysis looked at the results of the rent de-control in Cambridge Massachusetts (circa 1995). They assert that modernizing run-down buildings may attract businesses like yoga studios and coffee shops while displacing some criminal activity. It’s still a bit ambiguous whether what they call “urban renaissance” actually improves public safety. But, if this worries you, there are resources to help you assess whether your neighborhood is safe.

Parking

If you’re a newcomer to city-living and you own a car (or two), you’ll need to factor in the cost of a parking space. Due in part to scarcity, expect to pay a premium in urban cores. Studies show that in Philadelphia, houses with garages typically sell for an average price that is 10.3% higher than houses without garages. One of the perks of buying in a gentrified neighborhood is lower purchase prices. As a result, you maybe able to get that allocated parking spot you always wanted but could not otherwise afford.

Public Transport

The buzz word “transit-induced gentrification” means that properties closer to transit hubs are more favorable to developers.  Young professionals do care about access to subways, light rail, bus rapid transit, pedestrian and bicycle paths. If you can live a little further out from work, avoid traffic and take public transit, this may be a huge perk of living in a gentrified area. Though, you’ll need to invest in street-wise shoes.

A city bus going down the street.A city bus going down the street.

Fun, Hip and Exciting

Practicality aside, it can be really fun to live in a neighborhood with start-up energy. And for current residents that have watched the revolution of their neighborhoods, the added revitalization can be viewed as a sigh of relief for homeowners that want to boost the value of their home, yet still enjoy their beloved stomping grounds. A recent study by Harvard used Yelp, Census, Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Streetscore data and found that “gentrifying neighborhoods tend to have growing numbers of local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and bars.” Does this sound like the lifestyle for you?


Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana’s versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.

Source: homes.com

Julia Child’s Fairytale Cottage in Provence is Now Available for Rent; The Kitchen is a Must-See


Few people have had such an impact on American cooking as the legendary cookbook author Julia Child.

Julia has inspired millions of American home cooks and taught them to be more adventurous in the kitchen, exposing them to the world of fine eating. As the first woman to have her own cooking show, Julia quickly become a media sensation.

Famous for her passion for French cuisine, Julia Child mastered the art of French cooking while spending her summers in a beautiful cottage in Provence, a region in the southwestern part of France bordered by the Mediterranean, the French Alps and Italy.

And that cottage, known as La Peetch or La Pitchoune, is now available for rent.

What Makes La Pitchoune Special

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Image credit: Beth Kirby

Located in the picturesque Provencal countryside, La Pitchoune (“The Little Thing”), also fondly referred to as La Peetch, is an adorable property with a rustic and homey ambiance.

The property is a perfect retreat from the fast-paced city life. Besides its location in the idyllic rural France, it comes equipped with a yoga space and a swimming pool.

But the centerpiece of this property is without a doubt Julia Child’s kitchen. It was designed by her husband as a copy of their home kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Image credit: Beth Kirby
julia-child-house-kitchen
Image credit: Beth Kirby
julia-child-house-kitchen
Image credit: Beth Kirby

As you can imagine, Julia Child’s kitchen is a foodie paradise with high countertops, pegboard walls, ceramic cookware and vast array of tools that would wow every aspiring chef.

The kitchen is exactly as Julia has left it – which gives the property an irresistible appeal and makes it a dream vacation destination for all her fans.

The property doesn’t come cheap though as a full week in February will cost you almost $6,000. But if you are a hardcore Julia Child fan it’s probably well worth every penny – and looking at the reservation calendar for 2019, which is already almost fully booked (!!!), seems like there are lots and lots of Julia Child fans out there.

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Image credit: Beth Kirby
julia-child-home-table
Image credit: Beth Kirby

Tip: a weekend retreat to La Peetch would make an incredible gift for every chef or passionate home cook.

More celebrity homes:

The Mysterious Allure of Stephen King’s House, the Beating Heart of Bangor, MaineThis Malibu Beach Home was once Frank Sinatra’s “Happiest Place on Earth”
40 Years Ago, Jackie O Turned a Sheep Farm into her Dream Retreat on Martha’s Vineyard; It Now Costs $65M
Ernest Hemingway’s Iconic House in Key West Stands Tall and Mighty After 168 Hurricane Seasons

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Lindsay Aratari’s Tips for Second-Time Homebuyers

You see plenty of tips for first time home buyers, but second time home buyers can often be forgotten!

My husband, John Paul and I are in the process of moving to Rochester, NY. This will be our second time purchasing a home and we’re excited to use the tips we learned from the first go-around! If you want to see what we wish we knew before buying our current home, read my post HERE.

Check out my tips below and avoid some of the bumps we encountered during the homebuying process! 

Hindsight is 20/20

When we bought our first home, we didn’t have any kiddos yet. We were newlyweds and just excited to own a home! We loved the home we bought and thought we were making the best decision for us.

Our home was built in 1900, and while we loved the old charm of the house, it wasn’t really made for modern living. For example, the kitchen isn’t open to any room in the house. While it’s nice to have it closed off when it’s just us, during parties or get-togethers everyone seems to hover in the kitchen which doesn’t have a ton of space. Additionally, John Paul and I also love to cook together so this means our son has to be in the kitchen with us rather than playing in the living room or playroom, so having an open kitchen would be more functional for our family.

Our current home has three bedrooms, which is great for our small family.  However, my family is from Massachusetts and my husband’s family is from Rochester, so, we tend to have guests staying with us many times a year. With a baby girl due in a couple short months, we will soon be out of bedroom space! It would be nice to have an extra room that could double as an office/guest room.

We also have a pool which we thought was an awesome perk at the time of purchasing our house. While it has come in handy during those hot summer months, our busy and playful toddler made us wish we would have prioritized a bigger yard rather than the pool.

Lastly, we would love our home to be in a neighborhood.  We don’t live on a very busy street, however, it’s not a neighborly feel. Now raising little babies, we realize how nice it would be for them to grow up having other kids around to play with.

To sum it up, here’s our Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves for our second home…

Must-Haves for the New House

  • Somewhat open kitchen, it doesn’t have to be fully open, but open to a space where the kids can play while we cook
  • A backyard that is fenced in or has the possibility to be fenced in
  • 2 full bathrooms
  • Designated playroom/office space

Nice-to-Haves for the New House

  • 3-4 bedrooms
  • Additional 1/2 bathroom
  • Front Porch
  • Neighborhood

Second Time Homebuyer Tips

  1. Think of what worked and what didn’t work in your first home
  2. Make a list of the above items so you can really see them (I am a very visual person so this helps us tremendously!)
  3. Decide what your ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ are
  4. Think of future needs rather than just current needs
  5. Location: what type of area do you want to reside in?
  6. Be patient with the selling and purchasing process

As we are navigating through the selling and purchasing of a new home, we have learned a lot.  Things take time and we are learning to be patient with the process.

We are a bit more experienced this time with what we are looking for in a home so we can really decide whether we want to put an offer on a house.  We know what our must-haves and nice-to-haves are which has helped us tremendously in narrowing down potential future homes. We have enjoyed using the Homes.com Match feature while searching for our next home! 

I hope these tips are beneficial for others starting the house-hunting process. 


Lindsay Aratari

My name is Lindsay Aratari and I blog over at Aratari At Home! I live in Buffalo, NY with my husband, John Paul, our son, Dominic, & puppy, Freddy.  We live in a house built in 1900 & have slowly transformed it into our dream home. Other than being a mom; fashion, antiques, & a good DIY project are some of my favorite things.

Source: homes.com