February 17, 2011

Securing Your Property from Accident Liability

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 9:34 am

Many people who own homes happen to have some handy do-it-yourself skills. They may be able to save money by performing lots of home maintenance tasks and repairs, for example, or they may be able to tackle bigger projects like paint jobs, fixture installations, landscaping work, and kitchen, basement, and bathroom remodels. But in addition to these kinds of projects that add equity or beauty to your home, it is important that you also do the kinds of upkeep and improvements that contribute to the safety of you and your family members.

At least once a year it is wise, therefore, to enlist the help of a home safety professional. He or she can reassess your home and point out any potential threats. You can, for example, hire a home inspector who specializes in this kind of examination, evaluation, and reporting. The same pro who inspected your house before you bought it, for instance, may offer this kind of service and have the proper training and credentials to ensure that your money is well spent.
Being safe also protects you from lawsuits and liability that too often follows in the path of an unfortunate accident or injury. Those kinds of legal ramifications can be financially and personally devastating, and you certainly do not want to find yourself responsible for damage to someone else’s property or injury to a friend, neighbor, or visitor to your home.

If you have hazardous materials around your home or garage, for example, those can present all sorts of potential problems. Many everyday products used for cleaning or fuel are toxic, volatile, and attractive to playful children or innocent pets that might encounter them and not realize how dangerous they are. Some volatile compounds like those stored in gas cans and even in paint tins are so unstable that they can literally burst into flames, and if you accidentally mix some household cleaners or other products they can explode.

Even something as innocuous looking as a bottle of Clorox bleach or some misplaced aluminum foil has the capacity of becoming a problem of dramatic proportions, as peculiar as that sounds. If aluminum foil, for example, is dropped into a container of bleach it tends to set off a rather wild and crazy chemical reaction. Before long the mixture of these two rather benign products can unleash a major explosion. The same goes for hydrogen peroxide used to clean cuts and scratches or for dyes and toners that you might use to give yourself a new hair color or wash out some of that pesky gray in favor of transforming yourself into a redhead or blonde.

Then there are the culprits like loose stair railings, rotten floor joists, improperly attached overhead fixtures, or hidden but frayed or incorrectly wired electrical connections. Mold can invade a home and turn it into a virtual breeding laboratory for toxins and allergens, and that old tree outside your bedroom window could crash through your roof or fall across your next door neighbor’s brand new luxury SUV or swimming pool.
Keep in mind that many of these kinds of calamities will not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy because in the fine print of those policies it explains that unless you maintain your home to a certain standard the coverage is null and void.

You cannot possibly be expected to keep track of so many potential safety issues – and to make sure that they are all under control. That’s why proactive homeowners just turn the job over to a licensed and certified inspector. For a nominal fee that more than pays for itself by helping you keep your homeowner’s insurance costs under control and your loved ones and property safe you can get a full report. You’ll be safer, more secure, and adequately protected from the unexpected. That’s an outcome that most homeowners would rate as invaluable – both in terms of finances and budgets and in emotional and psychological ways.

Home Maintenance to Protect Property from Wind and Rain

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 9:31 am

Springtime is only a month away, although in many parts of the USA it feels like it may never get here to thaw us out from an unusually harsh and frigid winter. But whether the spring-like conditions arrive early or late where you live, they will eventually come and you will want to be prepared for that dramatic change of seasons.
As a gardener that means getting your flowerbeds tidy and your vegetable gardens tilled, but for homeowners with or without green thumbs it definitely means that you have to get ready for wind and rain. March winds and April showers are often responsible for creating expensive damage to homes this time of year, and in some cases the problems can be life-threatening to your family.

So start now by making a to-do list of home maintenance tasks and projects related to preparation of your valuable home from the more extreme kinds of springtime elements. Here are some areas to consider when putting together that punch list:
The Roof and Gutters
Your roof is the umbrella over your house that protects it from whatever might fall from the sky all year ‘round, and over the winter ice, sleet, and snow have exacted a toll on your roof. While observing all standard safety procedures – especially if you climb a ladder or get up on top of your roof – you should examine the roof for leaks, loose or curled shingles, and missing flashing and tar around vent pipes, chimneys, and other dormers. These need to be repaired before the high winds and heavy thundershowers come, otherwise you will end up with a much more aggravated problem that will cost a great deal more time and money to remedy.
Clean the gutters, too, and check to make sure that they are sturdily supported and are functioning as they should. You can test them on a beautiful sunny day by using a garden house. Run water through the gutters and see if it drains and flows as it should, and make sure that downspouts drain in a manner that does not erode dirt around the foundation or create a mess by splashing against your house.
Drainage around the Foundation
While talking about water runoff, it is a good time to emphasize the importance of ensuring that water doesn’t drain toward your all-important house foundation. That is one of the biggest reasons for catastrophic damage to foundations and flooded basements, so watch how the rain dissipates after the first big storm. It should roll and flow away from the exterior walls of your house, not toward them. If it drains the wrong way then you should discuss solutions with a landscape architect who can help you figure out how to grade the dirt or lawn around your home so that it encourages the proper kind of water drainage.
Trees are another big consideration as we head into spring, because those strong gusts of wind can send dead or diseased branches and limbs raining down on your home. Sometimes even a small wind is enough to topple a large tree that is standing in place looking normal without you knowing that the tree is actually dead, and the damage that results from a fallen tree can be lethal. Dead limbs also represent what loggers refer to as “widow makers” because these loose limbs often fall silently and unexpectedly – making widows out of the wives of unfortunate loggers who get hit as they drop from the tops of trees. So have a tree surgeon inspect your trees for any suspected disease, rot, or other troubles. Take care of removing those and you’ll be safer and your home will be less threatened – which is good for your insurance policy and your bank account.
Doors and Fences
Another thing to maintain is your doors – whose hinges may have gotten loose over time. Otherwise if they are not in tip-top shape a powerful gust of wind might blow them back and cause real damage. They may also benefit from a fresh coat of paint or varnish to keep them from deteriorating. Fences are also susceptible to those surprise blasts of wind, and they often get loose down below because of soggy ground that has frozen and thawed numerous times over the winter months.
Secure these items, patch them, and repair them as soon as you can. It might take an effort but once it’s done you can look forward to spending your springtime weekends golfing, barbequing, and relaxing instead of working overtime on home maintenance projects left over from beforehand.

Tips for Sellers: Use a Home Inspection to Help Market Your Property

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 9:27 am

If you want to be really proactive and intelligently strategic about marketing your home you’ll make the first call to a home inspector. This may seem odd to you, because most people believe that home inspectors only work for buyers. You most likely employed one to conduct the inspection on your own home before you bought it, and it may not have occurred to you that you would need the services of a home inspector again until after you sold your home and were in the process of buying the next one. But nobody can give you the kind of insight and report that a home inspector will deliver, showing what issues may be hiding inside the walls, basement, and attic waiting to manifest themselves and kill a potentially successful sale.

Sellers always get nervous when the buyer’s own home inspector comes, because the inspector may find some pretty disturbing evidence that makes the buyer reluctant to proceed with the purchase. Of course the inspector may also give the house a great bill of health, which is an encouraging endorsement. But the point is that the savvy sellers don’t wait until the buyer is already that far along before they uncover any issues and address them. They do it well ahead of time, even before listing the house, by hiring the same kind of home inspector to work for them. While this may same strange, it is one of the best-kept secrets of professional real estate sellers.

What you do is hire the inspector, telling them that you are preparing to sell your house and you want him or her to give you a report on the condition of your home. You might pay $250 or $350 for a typical report that details all sorts of useful information – and that is a fraction of the price you would pay to salvage a sale late in the game if the buyer’s inspector uncovered the same things. You find out right away where to focus your budget to make the house look its best and show the most value, and you will not lose any sleep wondering what is going to happen when the buyer’s house inspector shows up. The peace of mind alone is worth the cost of the inspection, but what is really advantageous is that you get a market edge on all other people selling in your neighborhood.

Right now the housing market is picking up momentum in ways that are giving positive encouragement to buyers and sellers that we have not seen in years. Not only are we on the threshold of springtime – which is historically and traditionally the busiest time of year for home sales – but the real estate economy has also gained significant traction. Prices in California are rising to levels not seen in five years, for example, and the Golden State is the biggest market in the nation and the one that took the worst hit when the real estate and mortgage mortgages first imploded. Meanwhile interest rates on loans are near the lowest levels they have been in American history, and that is adding financial support to buyers who are rushing to take advantage of affordable home prices coupled with cheap loans.

But the mortgage markets are under tremendous pressure from inflation as prevailing rates rise. In the month of February, for instance, the interest rates on fixed rate 3-year loans climbed from the lower four percent range and broke through to nearly five and a half percent. That means that buyers who have been sitting on the fence waiting for rates to go lower will now frantically rush to capture low rates before mortgage bargains are a thing of the past. Meanwhile experts from real estate brokers to housing market economists are all lining up to explain why 2011 will be a major turning point for the markets. What it all points to is a perfect storm of forces that will likely make this spring a great time to buy or sell a house.

But since there are still a lot more buyers than there are sellers it is imperative that homeowners get the jump on their fierce competitors. Those who snooze will lose, because by the time summer gets here most of the buyers will already have their contracts closed and the pool for potential buyers will shrink. If you want to capture the momentum that springtime will offer, then your home needs to be ready to sell – not ready to start thinking about getting ready to call your Realtor – as soon as the warm weather arrives. You need to line up professionals – including home inspectors, repair contractors, and potential listing agents – right now. If you wait a month or two then you’ll be caught in the traffic jam of everyone else trying to schedule appointments with these professionals.

But before you can start talking about repairs or cosmetic improvements with handymen and contractors – or crunching realistic numbers with real estate brokers to determine your asking price – you need to know what an inspector will find once you get a purchase offer from a qualified buyer.