Hampton Roads Housing: The State of the Market

HAPPY NEW YEAR – As I start this blog this year I want to talk about the previous years housing market in the Hampton Roads area.  2011 brought many challenges, foreclosures, short sales, and more of the same.  The housing market did move and started to show some activity.  What we found was there were three types of homes on the market: First there were the foreclosures and short sales (they were selling), second the reasonably priced homes that were in pristine condition (they were selling) and the third category was all others.  This included those sellers who were checking the market (not the best market to do that in), those homeowners that wanted to list their home for what it was worth in 2006 (Hello it is 2012) ! and those that refused to do any maintenance or fix up of their properties.  These homes are not selling and have become the surplus on the market and what in fact happens is that had they priced them right and fixed them up they would have sold.  2012 will bring the same type of market, back in 2006 the dog house would sell without fix up….not true today.  Get a professional realtor to come over and look at your home if you are contemplating selling it …they can give you many ideas to get it sold.   2012 is the year of the sale!  SOLD is the word!!

Tim Meyer


Long & Foster Real Estate

5007-E Victory Boulevard, Yorktown, VA 23693
License: 0225 049113

Phone: 757-886-1900
Cell: 757-342-4357
Email: [email protected]


Spotlight on Local Business in Newport News: Jeannie Smith

After doing remodeling or roofing all day in Newport News, there’s only one person we trust to put US back together!

Jeannie is board certified (NCTMB) Massage Therapist licensed to conduct massage therapy in the State of Virginia. We’re not talking about some “fluff & buff” massage here, folks!  Jeannie FIXES things!

Visit her here: http://www.jeannieasmith.com/

She also is one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet, and we are big fans of cool people!

YouTube video

kitchen remodel

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling in Virginia Beach – Good, Fast, or Cheap: Choose 2

When evaluating remodeling options, I am reminded that the graphic design industry feels the same way about their industry:

I like to tell people this:  good, fast, or cheap – choose 2.  If it is good and cheap, it’s probably not going to be fast.  These contractors will have big back-logs of work.  They have a very economical product and a suitable quality of work, so everyone wants them to come to their house next.  These contractors will get things done the most economical way possible at the highest quality that is warranted; however, this will be done in their way and on their schedule.

Take these kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in Virginia Beach for example:     round glass bathroom

3 After Kitchen (1)

They look AWESOME!  They definitely weren’t cheap!  The workmenship is top-notch.  The materials are the highest quality obtainable. 

 The question is:  How much of this was necessary?

Then there is cheap and fast.  This, therefore, cannot be good.  If they are cheap and fast, quality is certainly missing and perhaps maybe their morals as well.  Some scam artist contractors out there are selling and installing stolen materials, that’s how they are so cheap.  Some contractors out there promising cheap prices and lightning fast speed just want your deposit money.  They never plan on finishing the job, maybe not even starting the job!  Good luck finding those guys later to get your money back for work not completed or come perform warranty work on their job if you were lucky enough to get the job completed.  You must avoid these “contractors” at all costs or you could be sorry.

This was surely fast AND cheap!

And this is usually how the customer ends up in that situation:

Lastly, there is good and fast.  For this superior service you must be prepared to pay the right price.  You see this demonstrated very effectively on Holmes on Homes on HGTV channel.  His crew comes into a project with lots of highly-skilled hard-working man-power, all of the best tools and products, and subcontractors that will bend over backwards to please and perform the highest quality work on a moment’s notice.  What is never revealed in that show is the COST to the client.  You can rest assured that it is quite a bit higher than the average.

Going green means sometimes just being a little smarter

Brad Brinke is a licensed and well-experienced professional home inspector in the Hampton Roads area.  He may have not seen it all, but I bet there isn’t much he hasn’t seen when it comes to homes in Hampton Roads!  Going green doesn’t always mean some tree-hugging flower children holding hands in a circle and singing Greatful Dead songs – LOL.  Now, it usually means just being a little smarter in your energy usage and saving some green while doing a little here and a little there to help out the environment.  Brad Brinke of Procraft Inspection Services and The Crawlspace Company offers us a little insight and a few tips to go green and save yourself a little cash as a result.  Visit Brad’s website at:  http://www.procraftinspections.com/ and be sure to catch his blog!

 Energy Tips and Tricks – by Brad Brinke

It’s easy to be green, right?  Put out your recycling on Wednesday night and make sure that you have a low flow shower head.  Seems easy enough. The truth is that green is a word that is thrown around a lot and sometimes what you think is being energy smart is not worth the effort.  I hope in this article to explore some energy facts and myths that you may or may not be familiar with.

The CFL light bulb is an item that has gained recent popularity.  CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Light and this type of bulb uses around 75% less energy than the standard incandescent bulb.  The other factors to consider about CFL bulbs is that they last 10 times longer and produce about 75% less heat.  All of the heat sources in the home combine together to produce latent heat and the fewer sources that are in the home, the easier it is to cool the home.  It is advisable to replace the incandescent bulbs with CFL’s before they burn out as you can take advantage of the immediate energy savings. Simply by replacing the five most used lights in your home with CFL’s will result in annual savings of $65 or more.  It is important to select an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb in the process and there are several great choices on the market now.  It is also important to mention that the CFL bulb should be recycled when it burns out due to the mercury in the bulb.

A programmable thermostat for your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Cooling) system is another cost savings measure. When this type of thermostat is used to control the HVAC system, the potential savings are approximately $180 annually.  It is a common misconception that it takes more “energy” to heat up a cold home than it does to keep it warm all day long. Turning up the cooling or turning down the heat will always save energy.  Heat moves from hot to cold and smaller temperature differences between the interior and the exterior will result in smaller losses between the inside and outside of your home.  A programmable thermostat allows the user to program the temperatures in the home in both the summer and the winter.  The pre-programmed settings that come with the thermostats are designed for maximum savings without sacrificing comfort.  You should have your thermostat installed by a certified HVAC contractor for maximum efficiency as well.  The key is to establish a program that regulates the heating and cooling in the home when it is not needed.  Of course, installing a programmable thermostat for energy savings is a great idea and making sure that your HVAC system is running at peak performance is just as important.  Possibly the best thing about a programmable thermostat is setting it to turn on and warm up the home 20-30 minutes before you get out of bed!

The 2nd largest energy consumption in the home is the water heating system.  Most households spend $400-$600 per year on this cost alone.  There are several things you can do to increase the efficiency of the water heater.   The temperature on the water heater should be set to 120 F or lower.  There are several reasons to do this and the most important of those is safety.  Water that is hotter than 120F increases the potential for scalding with children.  If a water heater is set to 140 F or higher, up to $400 can be lost in the demand load, which is the amount of hot water you use from the tank, and around $40 in standby loss, which is heat that comes off the heater into the space.  If you have an older water heater, you can purchase and install a water heater-insulating blanket, which can account for savings of around $30 annually.  It is also advisable to use pipe wrap to insulate as much of the hot water pipe as you can at the water heater.  One last tip is to turn off your electric heaters and turn down your gas heaters if you go on vacation or an extended weekend, just don’t forget to turn it back on!

This will be the least popular section of this entire article.  I want to discuss the refrigerator in the garage.  Usually, the refrigerator in the garage is an older model that was moved out of the kitchen.  While these units probably “run fine”, they can consume twice the amount of energy as a newer energy efficient model.  The other factor to consider about this old, outdated refrigerator is the extreme temperatures that it is subjected to in the garage.  Spending up to $125 per year to keep a couple of six packs cold does not make much sense.  If the refrigerator in the garage is constantly stocked, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model is an option to consider.  You will get better performance and still save upwards of $250 over five years.  If giving up the second refrigerator causes too much angst, consider a compact fridge.  These units are great because they use a fraction of the energy of a full size unit and an ENERGY STAR unit can save up to $80 per year.  Do you have an energy hog in the garage?

Hopefully in this article you learned that being “green” is not as much as a lifestyle change as it is a change in the way you use energy. The examples listed here are just a few of the things that you can use in your home to make it more efficient and thus reducing its carbon footprint.

Some Contractor’s Just Can’t Say No

Some Contractors Just Can’t Say No – A Commentary by Jim Hicks

It’s amazing to me how contractors are diversifying their products and services that they offer to their clients in this down economy. I was just talking to a contractor that supplies and installs overhead garage doors. During our short conversation he told me that lately they were installing a lot of granite countertops and commercial lighting. So I asked him what experience he had in doing these kinds of things. He said “None, it is a learn-as-you-go situation but I just can’t tell anybody no when they ask me ‘Can you do this?’”.

Historically, contractors have always had a very hard time saying “no” to a potential client for fear of leaving money on the table, appearing inept or unprofessional when their prospect asks if they can perform a certain function for them. However, would you ask your dentist to give you an opinion about your car, business finances, or perhaps your physical fitness program?  Not likely, unless your dentist is a muscle-bound gear-head with a portfolio of 7 or 8 figures.

When considering hiring a contractor to do some work for you, do your homework beforehand! Make sure the contractor you are considering is capable, qualified, and experienced in that specific type of work.  Also, you want to make sure your contractor has the following:

  • A Contractor’s License
  • Liability and Workmen’s Compensation Insurance (in case there is an accident)
  • A permanent place of business (in case you need to go find them for any reason)
  • References from past customers that had the same type of work done
  • Lead, mold or asbestos certifications (only as applicable)
“What do you mean, ‘That isn’t up to code?’ What code?”

“No, we don’t need a plumber! I can do it, its easy! Anybody can do it!”


What do I need insurance for? It’s not like I’m going to do something stupid or anything!

Front Doors – A Commentary by Jim Hicks

I just looked at a front door replacement project for a previous customer that we had done a window replacement job for recently.  Doors replacements are very interesting projects because they can be very simple, or they can be very complex.  It all has to do with the thickness of the wall.  We don’t get a lot of door business because a lot of it goes to the big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.  They have their own subcontractors with pre-negotiated prices to install doors for them.  The problem is that if they run into any situation that is not the standard cut and dry installation, the result is that the installation turns out to be very poor and substandard.  Then that’s where we come in; we get called to either replace the door with a new one or reinstall the same door properly. 

The standard door options that are available right now begin with the steel-skin door.  This is a wood door inner core with a thin steel skin around it.  These are the cheapest exterior doors that you can get.  The problem with these doors is that the skin will rust over time and will require routine maintenance.  You frequently see these doors used as personnel doors on garages.  In many cases, people will use them as their front doors as well because they are very inexpensive.

A better exterior door product material is fiberglass.  The fiberglass door has the same construction as the steel-skin door with the wood door slab covered with a fiberglass skin.  The nice thing about this is that the fiberglass will not rust; however, both of these doors are very lightweight and offer very little security or insulation value.

The highest quality doors on the market right now are structural steel doors manufactured by companies such as Pro Via.  The structure of the door consists of solid steel ribs and beams internally with a steel outer shell.  The void spaces in the middle of the steel panels are filled by insulation foam.  The finished product is a very strong, very well-made door that provides a high level of security and insulation, if it is installed correctly. 

The nice thing about Pro Via doors is that every door is custom sized specifically for your project.  Our carpenters love the fit that they get every time with Pro Via.  Functionally, they are outstanding.  Once they are properly installed their functionality is, as expected, top-notch. Not to mention they look great.

So, when evaluating the options available to you if you’re thinking about replacing your front door its fun to look at the catalogs of all the pretty glass options.  However, do not that you have let this be your number one determinant of what kind of door you’d like to have installed on your home.  I’ve had many customers pick out doors that they thought were pretty because of the glass options that weren’t the best quality only to have regretted not spending a little bit more money on a Pro Via type door and getting a much better quality for their purchase dollars.

5 Quick Fixes: Solutions for the Unused Fireplace

It’s a common issue in city dwellings; the unusable fireplace. Here are five ideas for coping with an empty hearth.

Above: A tiled fireplace (the J. J. rocking chair is by Antonio Citterio); image via B & B Italia.

Above: A grouping of pillar candles adds a note of color in this otherwise neutral space; image via VT Wonen.

Above: In photographer Paul Massey’s London house, a minimalist fireplace opening is filled with stacked wood.

Above: Oversized gold-toned letters fill an unused fireplace in the Paris apartment of Jean-Christophe Aumas; image via Marie Claire Maison.

Above: A mirrored ball reflects light in this minimal hearth; image via Shelterness.

Need ideas or help with your next home remodeling project? Jim Hicks Home Improvement can that dream become a reality.

Cheap Kitchen Remodel Ideas To Keep You On Budget

Remodeling your kitchen can add functionality and value to your home. However, such renovations can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, which most people simply don’t have to spare in this depressed economy. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have your kitchen remodeled it simply means that you will have do so on a budget that might be less than ideal. However, in order to help you get started here are some cheap kitchen remodel ideas to keep yourself within budget.

1. Start by setting your remodeling budget. You know what you can afford to spend and setting aside that amount and staying within the budget is the first step in getting a new kitchen look without the worry of how you are going to pay the bills.

2. Take a hard look at your kitchen. Decide if your kitchen really needs to be renovated or simply needs to have a new, fresher look. Keep in mind that cabinets, counter tops, and appliances are huge expenses that are best to avoid unless you have a lot of disposable income. Make a list of those changes that are absolutely necessary to make your kitchen more functional and make those changes first.

3. Remember, there are various small and inexpensive things you can do that will give your kitchen a bright new look without spending a lot of money. Sanding and repainting cabinets may take a lot of work but can help give your kitchen an entirely new look for much less than replacing your cabinetry. Fresh paint, stenciling, new curtains, area rugs, and a few shelves placed just right are all inexpensive ways to give your kitchen a face-lift. Some colorful place mats and a nice centerpiece can make that breakfast nook look totally different.

4. Changing your lighting or light fixtures may also make your kitchen more functional and look warmer and more inviting.

5. If your kitchen really does need a complete overall, then consider making changes a few at time and take advantage of any way you can lower the price. For example, there are many resale shops that now carry appliances and you just may get a new looking refrigerator or stove at a reduced price if you take the time to visit some of these places. Also consider getting appliances that are energy star rated as this will help you recover some of your cost slowly over time as you will be paying less for utilities.

6. You might also consider doing as much of the actual remodeling as you can yourself. While you may want a professional to put in those new cabinets or lay down that tile floor, you can certainly paint walls yourself and save on the cost of some of the labor.

By setting a budget and sticking to it, making wise decisions and doing as much of the labor yourself as you reasonably can, it is possible put a few cheap kitchen remodel ideas to work for you and spend less than you ever thought possible.

Want more great kitchen remodel ideas? Check out http://www.jimhicks.com to learn all about transforming your dull, drab kitchen into the dream kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Judi_Blake

Cleaning Your Range Hood

Here are some tips to cleaning the grease filter in your range hood.

  • Soak filter in a degreaser, rinse then try washing in the dishwasher. If it’s stainless steel, it should wash up with regular dishwasher detergent no problem.
  • If it’s aluminum, be aware that dishwasher detergent can cause discoloration or pitting. You can try running it through a cycle without regular dishwasher detergent. I personally don’t worry about it, but it’s something you should be aware of.

For both inside and outside the hood, apply degreaser to a damp cloth and wipe down. Make sure not to spray any cleaner directly on the appliance since you could accidentally spray some into the exhaust fan motor or light fixture.

If the buildup inside the hood is especially thick, first make a thick paste of baking soda and water. Take a cloth wet with hot, soapy water and then scrub with the paste in a circular motion–wipe off as much as the grease as you can then rinse the cloth in a bucket of hot, soapy water. Reapply baking soda paste on the cloth and repeat as needed.

Once the majority of buildup has been removed–wash the unit with hot, soapy water to remove all traces of the baking soda paste and then clean with degreaser if needed.