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By Steve Quintana | Agent in Albuquerque, NM
  • Air Ducts, to Clean or Not to Clean?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Albuquerque, Home Ownership in Albuquerque  |  July 19, 2014 11:18 AM  |  25 views  |  No comments
    Are Dirty Ducts Hazardous to Your Health?

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asserts no studies have provee that duct cleaning prevents health problems. Also, there isn’t proof that dirty ductwork increases dust levels inside homes.

    But some people are more sensitive to airborne dust and pet dander than others. If your nose is getting itchy just thinking about what might lurk in your ducts, the $300 to $600 it costs to clean a 2,000-sq.-ft. home is a worthwhile investment. But before you reach for the phone, take a good look to see if your ducts are dirty.

    Get the Picture

    Wouldn’t it be handy if you could take an incredible journey through your ductwork to see if cleaning is needed? Using a pocket digital camera equipped with a flash, you can come close. Simply remove a floor register, reach as far as you can into the duct (don’t drop your camera!), and take a couple of shots.

    If there’s gunk within a few feet of the register, take heart. It’s easy to snake a vacuum cleaner hose into the duct and remove the stuff. However, if you see a long trail of junk and a thick coat of dust beyond what your vacuum can reach, your house may be a candidate for professional cleaning.

    Look for These Symptoms

    • Clogs of dust, cobwebs, and debris, or noticeable particles blowing out of supply registers.
    • Visible mold on the inside surfaces of ducts.
    • Rodent droppings and dead insects inside ducts.

    In addition, recent construction inevitably creates dust you don’t want in circulation. A new home purchase is also a good occasion -- after all, who wants to breathe someone else’s pet dander?

    Good Reasons for Duct Cleaning

    • Cleaning removes accumulated dust so it won’t shed into the household.
    • Removing debris and cobwebs eases airflow and increases the efficiency of the system, in extreme cases as much as 40%.
    • If you have fiberglass ducting, fiberglass gathers more dust than sheet metal.

    Reasons to Skip Duct Cleaning

    • Cost.
    • Health benefits are not proven.
    • Dust and debris caught on the interior of ducts isn’t circulating and therefore may not be a problem.
    • Changing furnace filters regularly often does the job, especially when combined with annual furnace cleaning.

    How Ducts are Cleaned

    Dislodging and removing dust and debris is done with one or more of the following methods:

    • Hand-held vacuuming: Workers use a brush attached to a large portable vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. However, the hand-held method isn’t completely reliable and may leave pockets of dust.
    • Mechanical brush: A rotating brush is fed into the ductwork. A truck-mounted vacuum sucks away debris. The rotary brush may damage older or poorly installed systems.
    • Air sweep: A truck-mounted vacuum system carries away dust and debris dislodged by a compressed-air hose fed into the ducts. Of the three, the air sweep method usually does the most effective job.

    Note: Some duct cleaning companies advocate spraying the inside of your ducts with chemical biocides. However, the EPA cautions that the spray may be more hazardous than helpful, aggravating respiratory ailments and introducing moisture that encourages mold growth.

    Choosing a Duct Cleaning Service

    Ask a reputable heating contractor for recommendations, or go to National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) to locate a certified contractor.

    Be wary of unsubstantiated health claims. Resist pressure to clean annually; even cleaning every other year is overkill. Most homes needn’t be cleaned more than once every five years. Also, make sure your furnace will be cleaned as part of the HVAC maintenance service that includes checking the plenum, evaporator coil, and heat exchanger.

    Related: Best Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

  • Cast Iron Grilling: How To Cook The Perfect Rib-Eye Steak

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Albuquerque, How To... in Albuquerque  |  July 16, 2014 8:08 AM  |  45 views  |  1 comment
    The cast iron cooking method grabbed me recently and my family loves the results.  Just like everything else in my blog this cooking method carries my personal recommendation to you, my friends. 

    Cast iron grilling is faster, easier, yummier and has almost no flare-ups to burn your meal as compared to cooking directly on the grill.  Clean-up is easy; simply turn the pan upside down and let the grill cook the pan clean.  Tools needed:  cast iron pan, long tongs, and a long plier to turn the pan upside down.

    My family likes all the good steak cuts, but bone-in rib eye has developed into one of our favorite steaks, so here we go. 

    The rib eye is the fattiest of the high-end steaks, which means it has the boldest flavor.
     It also means that it needs to be handled differently than a porterhouse, T-bone, strip, or filet. Because of their high fat content, rib eyes do well when cooked in a cast iron skillet. The meat is surrounded by its juices while it cooks which results in ultimate flavor profile.  The cast iron pan holds the fatty juices from the flames which prevents firey flareups. 

    Rib eyes are flavorful enough that they don't need anything more than salt and coarse black pepper.  Don't be stingy with the salt, either!  It will draw out the liquid within the steak, creating tiny beads of moisture on the surface, which then reabsorbs back into the muscle strands.  Because rib eyes are so huge, they need a good 45 minutes to an hour to come to room temperature, and absorb the salt you seasoned them with, so make sure you allot this time in your meal planning. 

    If you don’t have 45 minutes to an hour, salt your rib eye and cook it right away.

    The rib eye is best just shy of medium, or 135° F. A long cooking time gives all that lovely fat an opportunity to render out. Skimp on the cooking time, and you may end up with more un-rendered fat than you want. 

    The rib eye also has more connective tissue than other steaks, especially as it gets higher up toward the shoulder, and those tissues also need time to render and break down. A 1 1/2-inch steak should cook for about 5 minutes on each side in a hot skillet or grill. 

    Lastly,  let your steak rest after you cook it. Put a pat of butter on it for extra fanciness, tent it with foil to keep the heat in, and give it 5 minutes to reabsorb the juices and relax before slicing it against the grain and serving. You'll be a rib eye fanatic yet.

  • 5 Tips to Spruce Up Yards and Decks

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Albuquerque, Design & Decor in Albuquerque  |  July 14, 2014 12:25 PM  |  63 views  |  No comments

    1. Reupholster cushions and seats in need of updates or repair. Consider using water-repellent, UV-protected fabrics for slipcovers or fitted, zippered cushion covers. These changes will instantly update the outdoor space and make them feel fresh, tidy, ready to use.

    2. Repaint garage walls. It’s a good investment and is an update that takes little effort and money. A fresh coat will also spruce up your outdoor space. It’s important to keep the garage wall white; the sunshine will reflect the white wall inside the home.

    3. Play with neutral color in small doses outside. Paint a small section of a wood fence white, green, or blue in a large backyard.  Keep the color connected to nature; think of the calming feel of outdoor water fountains that are popular now.  Avoid accent colors in a small garden or BBQ space; it’s too overwhelming. Remember that the background is green —trees or plantings. One unobtrusive way to use blue is on the ceiling of a porch. Think about the viewpoint of where you’re sitting when you’re painting.

    4. Lighting is important. Try inexpensive tea lights around tree branches or a trellis. Define a boundary around a table with lights. Sconces with reflectors are a top-tier way to light the outdoors. Be wary of fluorescent lighting, which can kill a space with blue or green light.

    5. Buy inexpensive plants, to arrange strategically outdoors during showings, especially at entryways, where they draw the eye, or at the top of the stairway.

  • Hurdles to Clear When Buying a Home

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Albuquerque, Financing in Albuquerque, Credit Score in Albuquerque  |  July 9, 2014 8:39 AM  |  80 views  |  No comments

    There are some things you can do to help yourself, friends and family prepare to buy a home.  Here they are:

    1.  Student Loan Debt.  Restrict your student loan's to as few as possible and make your payments or deferment requests on time. 

    2.  Strict Lending Standards.  Keep your credit report clean by making payments as agreed, avoid debt, and disputing credit report entries you thinkg are wrong.

    3.  High Home Prices.  Ask your broker for a portal containing homes that fit your needs and get to know the market.  Be ready to act when a good deal can be had. 

    4.  Down Payments.  First time home buyers should ask their lender for assistance resources.  Veterans can borrow with no down payment.  Everyone else should have at least 3.5% in a traceable bank account for their down payment.

    5.  Credit Score.  Keep an eye on your credit report and clean up your report. 

    6.  Property Taxes.  Borrowers have a monthly payment consisting of principle, interest, taxes and insurance.  Include all four items in your mortgage payment estimates. 

    Call me with questions. 

  • 984 Ways the United States Can Advance to the Next Round of the World Cup

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Albuquerque  |  June 26, 2014 5:52 AM  |  124 views  |  No comments
    The New York Times has been good enough to project the 984 most likely scenarios by the United States will advance today out of group play into the knock-out round of the World Cup.  Here is the link to the article:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/25/upshot/984-ways-the-united-states-can-advance-to-the-next-round-of-the-world-cup.html.
  • 'Coming Soon' Ads Draw MLS Rule Attention

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Albuquerque, Agent2Agent in Albuquerque  |  June 18, 2014 8:13 AM  |  176 views  |  1 comment
    The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtor MLS Compliance Committee's attention has recently been drawn to the increasing use of “coming soon” ads for homes for sale.  The questions is whether brokers who use this practice are violating local MLS rules.  At the same time this issue is getting some national attention for the same reasons and the National Association of REALTORS® has issued guidance for its members on the use of “coming soon” ads.

    “The first important step in advising a seller-client on whether to advertise a property as ‘coming soon’ is to identify the client’s best interests, as defined by that client,” says Katie Johnson, NAR’s General Counsel. “Failing to act in the client’s best interest and failing to disclose the pros and cons of a limited marketing plan, such as ‘coming soon’ advertising, can violate state real estate license laws and regulations, MLS policies, and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.”

    Some “coming soon” advertisements involve unlisted properties that may be listed with a broker in the near future. Other “coming soon” advertisements may relate to properties that are subject to listing agreements where property is available to potential purchasers only through the listing broker and not available — temporarily or indefinitely — for showing or purchase through other MLS participants, Johnson writes. Regardless, “coming soon” properties are often withheld from the MLS.

    Restricting the marketing of a seller’s property to only a small network limits that property’s exposure and the seller’s ability to attract competitive offers, NAR notes.

    “It’s important that sellers understand the implications of various ways of marketing the property so that they can knowingly determine the choice that best serves their interests,” Johnson says. “If a broker determines that ‘coming soon’ advertising is in the client’s best interest and confirms that the client understands the possible consequences, then it is imperative for the broker to know the real estate license laws and regulations of their state to ensure that such advertising is in compliance. A broker who fails to comply with state laws and regulations risks facing disciplinary action from licensing authorities, as well as the possibility of litigation from unsatisfied clients.”

    Some states have recently taken a stance on “coming soon” advertisements. For example, in South Carolina, advertising a property as “coming soon” before entering into a listing agreement with the seller violates South Carolina’s license law.

    Also, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Real Estate Division, recently issued a position that states that a licensee’s existing duty to “promote the interests of the seller or landlord with the utmost good faith, loyalty, and fidelity” requires Colorado licensees to advise clients during the negotiation of the listing contract of the benefits or risks of limiting a property’s exposure through “coming soon” advertising.

    Besides complying with state license laws, brokers also need to comply with their MLS rules when listing a property as “coming soon,” Johnson says. She urges brokers to research the license laws and regulations in their states for further guidance regarding “coming soon” advertising, as well as to check with their local MLS rules to make sure they are in compliance.

    “REALTORS® must remember to promote and protect the interest of the clients, present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and make property available to other brokers for showing to prospective purchasers when it is in the best interest of the seller,” Johnson says. “Failing to do so harms the reputation of the broker and REALTORS® generally and may result in disciplinary action from the broker’s local association of REALTORS®.”

    Source: “‘Coming Soon’ – Is It in the Seller’s Best Interest?” National Association of REALTORS® (June 16, 2014)

  • Down Payments are Less Than Most People Think

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Albuquerque, Financing in Albuquerque  |  June 18, 2014 8:02 AM  |  166 views  |  1 comment

    You Need a Smaller Down Payment than You Think

    Home buyers often can qualify for a conforming, conventional mortgage with a down payment of as little as 5 percent — and sometimes even 3 percent. Between 2009 and 2013, Freddie Mac’s purchases of mortgages with down payments of less than 10 percent more than quadrupled. So far in 2014, more than one in five borrowers who took out conforming, conventional mortgages put down 10 percent or less.

    Depending on their credit history and other factors, many borrowers can expect to make a down payment of about 5 percent or 10 percent. However borrowers who puts down less than 20 percent may pay a higher interest rate or be asked to buy mortgage insurance.

    There are abundant down-payment assistance programs that exist to help buyers break into home ownership. Every state in the U.S., as well as many cities and counties, offer down-payment assistance programs for qualified borrowers, such as the American Dream Downpayment Initiative and HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

    Many buyers prefer a larger down payment for a variety of reasons that make good investment sense.  But, if you want to buy and your down payment resources are in the 3-10% range you still have good buying power and should check with your real estate broker and mortgage lender to get your plan organized.

    Source: “Down Payments: Today’s Most Persistent Misconception About Mortgages,” Freddie Mac (June 16, 2014)

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