Government Shutdown Closes One Loan Program, Rest Still Open

By: Dona DeZube at HouseLogic

If you’re worried about the federal government shutdown because you’re refinancing your mortgage or buying a home with help from an FHA, VA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Macloan program, or you need federal flood insurance, relax. The shutdown isn’t likely to cause problems for you.

That is unless you’re using the U.S. Department of Agriculture 502 rural housing loan program, which helps folks buy homes in rural areas. In that case, you’re toast until Congress agrees to fund the federal government again.

USDA’s rural housing loan program typically runs out of money at the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), if not sooner, and then starts making loans again when the next fiscal year starts Oct. 1. This year, there’s no FY 2014 budget agreement so that means no more USDA home loans until Congress funds a budget. However, if your lender got a conditional approval before the shutdown, the lender can move forward on your loan.

Here’s the rundown on the homeownership programs that will stay open even while the federal government is shuttered:

  • FHA will continue to insure loans because its guarantees support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market. Expect some delays because of staffing shortages.
  • The VA’s loan program will go on because it’s funded by veterans’ loan fees. As with FHA, expect some delays related to staffing.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan programs will be up and running because they aren’t federal agencies (although they’re under federal conservatorship).
  • FEMA will continue to sell and service flood insurance policies and fund disaster relief for homeowners, since the program is funded by premiums and not taxes. This won’t affect the flood insurance program rate changes set to kick in on Oct. 1, 2013.


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Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You?

By: Joe Bousquin at HouseLogic

What’s the Advantage of Going Tankless?

Traditional hot water heaters typically live in your basement and provide gallons of hot water at one time: an 80-gallon tank heats enough water to shower, run a dishwasher, and do a load of laundry simultaneously. But standby energy loss is significant with traditional hot water heaters, and once you’ve exhausted the hot water supply, you’ll wait 20 to 60 minutes for the heater to cook up more.

A tankless water heater produces hot water only when you need it. When you turn on the faucet, water is heated on the spot as it flows through capillary-like pipes heated by either a powerful gas burner or electric coils. (There are no oil-fired on-demand water heaters on the market.)

By bringing hot water close to where it’s needed, you reduce energy loss and increase efficiency by 50% over a conventional hot water tank system, about $165 in annual savings for an average household.

What’s the Downside?

Although a tankless water heater can pump hot water all day, it can’t produce a large amount all at once. And it can snap you out of a hot-shower bliss with the “cold water sandwich effect,” a sudden splash of cold water that results from turning the hot water faucet on and off repeatedly.

A traditional tank heater puts out 7.5 to 9.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), enough to shower, run the dishwasher, and do a load of laundry all at the same time. The typical tankless water heater, however, puts out only 2.5 to 5 GPM, enough to handle only two uses at a time.

Be warned: Not all flow rates are calculated the same. Energy Star measures GPM based on a 77-degree increase in water temperature needed to heat water, while some companies list their GPM flows at 35- and 45-degree rises. The more heat the water requires, the slower the flow rate.

Possible solution to the “cold water sandwich”: Install multiple on-demand units. Because it’s small — about the size of a carry-on suitcase — you can place a tankless water heater along any stretch of pipe: In the attic, basement, closet, or crawlspace. You can install two or three units to serve different parts of the house, or even dedicate a unit for a particular use — say, a washing machine. Multiple on-demand units increase overall energy efficiency.

How Much Do They Cost?

Gas-fired tankless water heater: This system costs $1,500 to buy and install, nearly double the price of a conventional gas water heater, and $575 more than a high-efficiency tank model. In addition, while a conventional water heater typically uses a half-inch gas line, a tankless water heater requires three-quarter-inch pipe. That plumbing change costs from $25 to $40 per foot, potentially adding many hundreds to initial costs. 

On the bright side, your new energy-efficient unit may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $300 on purchase and installation through 2013.

Electric tankless water heater: Much cheaper. It can cost as little as $400 installed. But it doesn’t qualify for a tax credit because it is less efficient than gas and is better suited for point-of-use applications, such as instant kitchen hot water, rather than a whole-house system.

More About Energy (and Money) Savings

  • According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, a tankless water heater is more efficient and uses less energy than a conventional water heater, providing a $25 to $107 in annual savings.
  • If your hot water use is low (less than 41 gallons per day), a tankless water heater will be 24% to 34% more efficient.
  • If your hot water usage is high (about 86 gallons per day), a tankless water heater is 8% to 14% more energy efficient.
  • Installing an on-demand unit at each hot water faucet gives an energy savings of 27% to 50%.


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Skyline Trail Grand Opening

The Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation hosts a Skyline Trail grand opening Saturday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The Skyline Trail is the first new trail in the San Bernardino National Forest Mountaintop District in 20 years. Volunteers were an integral part of preparing the trail. About 10 miles of the trail is open.

The grand opening is at the Skyline trailhead, at the intersection of Forest Service roads 2N10 and 2N06. Take Moonridge Road to Clubview Drive until it ends and the road becomes 2N10. Drive on 2N10 to the intersection with 2N06. Parking is limited at the trailhead.

Guests are encouraged to carpool to the site or ride their mountain bikes. Trails foundation president Phil Hamilton said an alternative is to take the Scenic Skychair at Snow Summit and ride a mountain bike from the top to the dedication site.

The dedication ceremony includes officials from the city of Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino County and the U.S. Forest Service. Hamilton and Mountaintop District Ranger Scott Tangenberg are expected to speak about the project. Refreshments are served compliments of Big Bear Cycling Association.

There is a formal ribbon cutting followed by mountain bike rides and hikes on the trail. Rides include the full 10-mile stretch for advanced cyclists, a medium level ride and an easy ride for families and inexperienced riders.

A guided hike is also scheduled.

For more information, visit the website

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Tour de Big Bear Next Weekend

Tour de Big Bear is Big Bear’s premier sporting event! Cyclists of all levels participate in the most scenic and challenging high altitude ride in Southern California.  This event continues to gain popularity since the first Tour in 2010, and is now sold out for 2013 at more than 1200 riders!  It begins in the Village on Saturday, August 3rd at 7 am and riders will go all over the mountain with routes ranging from 25 miles to 100 miles.  In addition to the rides, there will be a Cycling Expo at the start/finish line in the Village.

Bring the family and make a weekend out of the Tour de Big Bear experience.  It’s a perfect time of the year to escape the summer heat and enjoy a refreshing weekend in the mountain with LOTS to see and do!  Please drive carefully.

The Tour de Big Bear is presented by The Big Bear Cycling Association.  For more information, visit and


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10 Tips For Protecting Your Home During Vacations

Before you leave town, you might be interested in a few precautionary safety tips to keep your home and your possessions safe while youʼre gone. Often in the run-up to a vacation, people neglect to take simple steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of theft or vandalism.

Here are 10 basic precautions you can take:

  1. Have someone collect your mail and newspaper daily.
  2. Leave shades and blinds in normal positions.
  3. Put at least two lights and a radio on automatic timers.
  4. Have someone leave trash at your curb on garbage collection day.
  5. Have someone park a car in your driveway occasionally.  If you leave your car outside, arrange to have it moved every so often.
  6. Leave a key with a trusted neighbor in case of an emergency.  Let the neighbor know where you are going and when you are expect to return, also leave them a way to get in contact with you in case of an emergency.
  7. Lock all windows and doors before you go.  Do not forget to double-check the garage doors.
  8. On extended trips have someone to maintain your landscaping (grass mowed, leaves raked, etc.)
  9. Consider turning off your homeʼs water main to prevent damage from a burst pipe.
  10. Be careful how much you check-in on social media while on vacation. If your privacy settings are incorrect you might reveal to strangers your home is vacant!

Be safe and have fun!

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Renovating Soon? How To Pick A Contractor

With the number of foreclosed or bank-owned properties floating around out there, we often speak with folks who are preparing to embark on a renovation project.

Unfortunately, with a rise in remodeling comes a flood of disreputable contractors looking to cash in.  We do our best to protect people by providing referrals to reputable contractors, but there are plenty of people out there we donʼt get a chance to talk to.

If you know someone who is about to undertake a major renovation project, we urge you to share this excellent article published by the Federal Trade Commission, “Home Sweet Home Improvement.”  It includes a PDF guide your friends and family will find helpful.

The guide covers:

  • The types of home improvement specialists
  • How disreputable contractors operate
  • Questions to ask contractors
  • How to check references
  • Understanding payment options
  • The “Home Improvement” loan scam
  • …and several other useful points

Hereʼs the link to the article on the FTC website:

Also, you can download the PDF file directly here:

Do you need a referral to a contractor or two?  Are you in the market for a property to fix-up and call your own (or use as an investment property)?  We would be happy to help.  Give us a call or shoot us an email today: 909-744-7289 or

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Snow Summit Adventure Park Grand Opening!

Snow Summit is not just a winter destination anymore. The official Grand Opening of the Snow Summit Adventure Park is happening this Saturday, June 15th with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 am.

New summer activities include downhill mountain biking down the face of Snow Summit on the newly developed Miracle Mile and Cruiser trails.  These advanced trails are for experience riders and have features such as step-ups, banked turns, bridges and more.  More trails are in the works including a blue-rated trail with intermediate features and eventually a green-rated trails for beginners.  These trails have been developed with Gravity Logic, the company that built the legendary Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

Another new addition (coming soon) is the Flying Squirrel Zip Line!  Experience the thrill of flying high above it all at speeds of up to 35 mph along a line that extends over 1000 feet.

If you’re not quite up for such an adrenaline rush, then take a ride up the Scenic Sky Chair and enjoy breathtaking views of the Big Bear Valley.  At the top of the lift, have lunch at the View Haus and take a short walk around the Mountaintop Trail.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike all the way down to the base area or you can just hop back on the Scenic Sky Chair for a peaceful ride down.  Either way, you will enjoy panoramic views and mountain air.

More info:


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7 Tips to Maximize Small Living Spaces

Clutter driving you nuts?  Did you move in with someone only to find you have duplicates of everything from headboards to can openers?  Here are 7 tips to help you make the most out of small spaces:

1.  Weed out the extras.  A yard sale will alleviate some clutter and a trip to the local Goodwill even more.  A good rule of thumb: Anything you havenʼt needed in a year can go.

2.  Bookcases are for more than books!  Your walls are your vertical friends for storage, and good book shelving can include plants, valuables, artwork and more.

3.  Wall-mount entertainment systems.  Television / cable / DVD cabinets are so pre-2000!  Free up floor space by going with sleek bolt-in mounts.  (Just make sure theyʼre anchored properly!)

4.  Donʼt pile it, hang it!  This is especially true in kitchens where you can use pot racks, hanging baskets, and even wall-mounted shelving units.

5.  Maximize cabinets and closets with organizers.  Poor use of cabinet space can easily waste more than 30% of usable “hidden” space.  Thereʼs great hardware out there to tune up the interior of your cabinets and closets.

6.  Go below.  A raised bed is a great way to free up storage space equal to the square footage of your bed.  Using baskets and drawers can ensure the below-the-bed storage remains tidy as well.

7.  Paint light.  Dark walls make small rooms feel smaller.  For those rooms that feel a little too close for comfort, dial up the brightness with a fresh coat of a light colored paint.

Remember: Organization and smart storage can turn a tiny home into a cozy abode.

Of course, if youʼre ready to upgrade your home rather than squeeze the last few inches out of your existing space, get in touch!  We would be happy to help you search for a new home today: 909-744-7289 or

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Top 10 Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Housing Market

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Big Bear’s Housing Inventory Is Down 29%

This graph illustrates that the number of homes for sale in Big Bear is the lowest it has been in a year. Last month, there were 29% fewer available listings than what were available the same time last year. Also, 9% more homes sold in March 2013 than in March 2012.  Prices have stabilized and are even rising due to the limited supply.  We are seeing multiple offers and bidding wars again, the likes of which have not been seen since the housing boom several years ago.

This is good news for sellers who have been on the fence about when to list their homes for sale since the competition is low.  This is also good news for buyers who have been waiting for the “bottom” of the market since home prices are no longer declining as they were in recent years.

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