Saving money

Posted on 03 Mar 2009 at 1:57pm
By David Taffet

You can save cash with a little DIY while increasing the value of your home


In the current economy, many people — worried about layoffs, dropping home values and diminishing investments — have hoarded money. Foregoing this year’s vacation is one common approach — the awful word ‘staycation’ (staying at home, rather than traveling during time off) was added to the dictionary.

But there are other ways to economize at home without giving everything up — and that can actually add to the value of your home if you want (or need) to sell.

Gardening
You don’t need to forego your flower garden this year just because money is tight, but save by starting your plants from seeds. Begin now germinating them indoors in pots. After any chance of freeze, transplant them into your garden once they’ve begun developing a healthy root system and grown a few inches.

Plants that have been growing inside should be gradually introduced to direct sunlight, wind and temperature extremes. For a few days, set them out mornings where they’ll get a few hours of direct sun before transplanting them into your garden.

Rather than annuals, think about planting bulbs that multiply and come back year after year. Or make productive use of your garden by planting vegetables. A few tomato plants should grow more than you’ll need and some varieties will continue producing through fall. Squash, zucchini, cucumbers and peppers also grow well in Dallas. You’ll not only have the freshest vegetables and save some money on your trips to the supermarket, but also help the environment with the ultimate contribution to the "buy local" movement — and make your yard look both green and "green" for potential buyers.

Insulation
Decide where spending some money on your home might be a wise investment. Insulation begins paying off immediately. Adding a layer of fiberglass batting in the attic is inexpensive, an easy do-it-yourself project and will lower the cost of air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Caulk around windows and add weather-stripping around doors to make your house more airtight.

Efficient appliances
As your light bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescents lights or CFLs. Although they are more expensive, they last longer and cost 75 percent less to operate. (Only one of mine burned out in less than a month, but that was because of a bad socket; I haven’t replaced any others since I began using them a year ago.) The equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb burns at about 17 watts.

If you are replacing any of your appliances, look for the Energy Star label for the most efficient models. Current standards for refrigerators came into effect in 2001 so if yours is older than that, it’s an electricity guzzler. A side-by-side refrigerator uses more energy than one with the freezer on top or bottom.

Front-loading washers use less water and spin clothes drier than top loaders. The drier things come out of the washer, the less energy is needed in the dryer. If you can hold out on the washer, new efficiency standards come into effect in 2011. For dishwashers, look for stricter standards in 2010.

Do-it-yourself?
Doing it yourself might save you some money, but a plumbing job gone wrong could cost twice as much when you figure in the additional damage. Do what you’re comfortable doing but before trying something completely new, think about enrolling in a Home Depot In-Store Clinic or a Lowe’s In-Store Educational Workshop. Check with your local store or online for dates and topics, which regularly include a variety of plumbing, tiling and carpentry tasks.

Still not comfortable that you’ll do the job right? Check the business listings section of the Dallas Voice or the Dallas Voice Yellow Pages for experts. Sometimes hiring an expert really is cheaper than doing it yourself. Think of it as doing your part to stimulate the economy!

DALLAS HOUSING MARKET STANDS STRONG — SORT OF
Home prices in Dallas fell for the 12 months ending Nov. 1, 2008, by 3.3 percent. That may sound like bad news, but actually it makes Dallas the strongest housing market in the country among the 20 largest metropolitan areas.

For the fourth quarter of 2008, the median price of a home in Oak Lawn was $206,620 or $194 per square foot, reflecting a 34 percent decrease in price for the area and a 32 percent decrease in sales.

Oak Cliff fared better and remains one of the biggest bargains in the Metroplex. The number of homes sold decreased by just 8 percent and the median price of $67,500 reflected a 17 percent decline.

Homes in East Dallas retained their value at a median $219,000 but 18 percent fewer sales were recorded for the quarter.

The best investment in the Metroplex for homeowners was Sunnyvale, a small community between Mesquite and Lake Ray Hubbard. Home sales increased by 23 percent and prices increased 10 percent to a median $328,990. While that price is higher than the average Oak Lawn home, the price per square foot in Sunnyvale is just $97, almost $100 less than in Oak Lawn.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Defining Homes magazine March 6, 2009.

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