Site mixes home improvement, politics

NAR gives home advice sites a run for their money

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 23, 2009

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NAR gives home advice sites a run for their money

Bernice Ross
Inman News

Do you have questions about tax incentives, rebates, the latest real estate sales trends, or how to avoid real estate scammers?

In November, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) launched HouseLogic.com, which offers information ranging from home maintenance and remodeling to pressing political issues that could influence your home's value.

The site provides detailed cost breakdowns, step-by-step guides, and the ability to create your own "house binder" of the articles and items that are most relevant for you and your home.

1. HouseLogic basics
If you are thinking about doing a bathroom remodel, you can click on the "remodel" tab in the toolbar. The site provides information on how much the improvements will cost as well as how much you can expect to gain in additional value to your home.

In the case of "Remodeling a Bathroom the Green Way," this remodel will add between $11,600 and $37,400 in value. It will take two to three months (including planning). The actual cost will range between $15,900 and $51,500. You can add this project to your binder, where you can also track your progress.

In addition, there are articles about how to choose a low-flow toilet, whether it pays to replace your hot water heater, as well as suggestions for choosing a low-flow showerhead. The site also provides places for people who have completed projects to share their experiences and discuss them online.

2. Maintenance tips
There are articles on "How to Eliminate Mold from Your Home" as well as "How to Find and Prevent Fires in Your Home," plus numerous other articles on keeping your property in the best possible condition.

3. Engage
HouseLogic invites its users to become more engaged in their communities. Ways to engage your community include "Seven Holiday Events that Better Your Community," how to "Improve the Infrastructure of Your Community," as well as how to "Set Up a Neighborhood Watch." They also provide articles on topics such as how to deal with speeders, tips for writing letters that can change your hometown and suggestions on how to lessen the environmental impact of your community.

4. Taxes and incentives
For most homeowners, this will be one of the most important parts of the site. It's also a reason to check back regularly, as tax laws and incentives change constantly. For example, did you know there are special tax incentives for those who suffered major disaster losses in 2008 and 2009?

If you have questions about the revised version of the new homeowner tax credit, there is an excellent article that explains the details of this important legislation. The site also provides resources that can help you obtain energy rebates and other types of incentives including energy tax credits.

5. Finances and insurance
If you are thinking about taking out a home equity line of credit or a reverse mortgage, it's important to have the best possible information. The HouseLogic site also includes information about how to avoid being duped by scam artists.

6. News and activity
In addition to reports on national housing stats, other articles detail links between Chinese drywall and corrosion, offer home and tech building tips, and provide legislative summaries.

7. The underlying mission of HouseLogic.com
I agree with fellow columnist Rob Hahn's assessment of the HouseLogic site from an industry perspective. NAR lobbies not only for its members, but for consumers as well. Among their most recent successes is the extension of the first-time homebuyer tax credit. With more than 1.1 million Realtor members, NAR is a political force with which to be reckoned. If consumers join forces with NAR, their clout will be greater than ever.

For example, in this challenged economy there are murmurs of eliminating interest-rate deductions for at least some types of properties and individuals.

The capital gains tax will also increase. And the net effect of tax changes could burden homeowners by creating new ripples among the waves of foreclosures and sparking additional price declines.

An obvious challenge is for NAR to attract a critical mass of consumer traffic to the site, and to empower and inspire this group to take action that is aligned with industry interests.

But if successful, HouseLogic could be NAR's secret weapon for not only fighting changes that may be detrimental to homeowners, but also driving the group's homeownership advocacy presence in Congress unlike any previous effort.

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