August 30, 2011

Why Sellers Should Not Fear Home Inspections

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 5:08 pm

Many home sellers feel extremely anxious when they find out that a buyer-ordered home inspection has been scheduled, because they have heard stories about inspections that revealed structural or mechanical problems with homes. Because repairs or other solutions were found to be necessary the sale of the property was delayed, repair allowances had to be made, or the price offered by the buyer was lowered. Some consumers even consider a home inspection a “deal killer” because they have such intense fear of the whole inspection process and what it can potentially reveal in terms of the vulnerabilities or shortcomings of a property.

But the truth of the matter is that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to a home inspection. The professional inspector is actually an asset to both the buyer and the seller because he or she has been trained to evaluate the home in a neutral and expert manner. The inspector will report each finding in writing according to the rules and regulations that govern the inspection industry in each particular region of the country, and any recommendations for repairs are made with the best interest of safety and optimum home system functionality in mind.

Consider for a moment what might happen if there were no licensed and certified home inspectors, for example, which was the situation for buyers and sellers a few decades ago. Without the expert guidance and impartial insight and observations of a home inspector the seller was oftentimes uninformed about the actual condition of their own home. If a buyer came along and offered less for the home, claiming that it was not in good condition, the seller had little evidence to the contrary.
A handyman or building contractor could be hired to assess the situation, but sometimes those people had a conflict of interest. Perhaps the contractor was a friend or family member of either the buyer or the seller or the handyman was affiliated with the real estate agent. Maybe the expert that was brought in to study the house was trained as an electrician but did not have any working knowledge of roofing systems, plumbing, or foundation engineering. So the buyer and seller might be skeptical of any results or recommendations, and the participation of the third party contractor was of little actual value in terms of settling issues and moving the sales transaction forward.

Of course it has always been possible to hire a licensed engineer to evaluate a home, and these highly educated and well-trained professionals can stamp documents in an official, industry-recognized and respected capacity. But because of their unique qualifications engineers also charge a lot of money for their time, and it may not be feasible to hire an engineer just to help a buyer make a good decision about buying a home. Bringing in an engineer or a team of engineers might cost nearly as much as it costs to hire a Realtor, for example, and that makes such an expense difficult to justify.

Meanwhile a standard buyer-ordered home inspection for the average sized home might only cost $300 or so, making it a nominal expense for a highly valuable service. The inspector is bound by professional ethics to remain impartial, and in states where the inspection industry is officially regulated that kind of professional impartiality is mandated by law. So both the buyer and the seller can trust the findings of the inspector and rely on those as a valid assessment. This protects the buyer from inadvertently purchasing a house that is a “lemon” while it simultaneously helps to protect the seller from any liability that might occur due to structural or mechanical problems with the home that were unknown to the seller.

With the condition of the home revealed and thoroughly reported in writing – and any recommended repairs clearly explained – the buyer and seller can complete the transaction from an informed perspective based on fairness and expertise. Any potential problems can be addressed before the sale is completed, repairs can be made as agreed upon, or repair allowances can be arranged. Keep in mind that if the house is in great shape that will also be reflected in the inspection report as further support for the seller’s point of view that the home is valuable and worthy of a good price.
So the home inspector is not a “deal buster” and the inspection process and written report is not something to be feared or dreaded. Home inspections benefit buyers and sellers alike, and without them the business of marketing and selling your home would potentially be much more stressful, complicated, contentious, and expensive.

Homeowner Tips for Affordably Upgrading Kitchens

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 5:06 pm

During the housing boom of the earlier part of this century there was a consumer craze for major home improvement projects around the USA. The most popular way to spend money to enhance a home was to upgrade the cooking space from an ordinary, functional, somewhat outdated version to an extraordinary designer-grade modern gourmet kitchen. Many homeowners, in fact, spent $150,000 or more to remodel kitchens in homes that had an overall appraised value of only $250,000-$300,000. But the housing bust and subsequent recession put the brakes on that kind of lavish spending and essentially curbed home improvements because credit got tighter, home improvement or home equity loans were harder to come by, and people had less discretionary income.

That does not mean that kitchen upgrades are a bad idea, however, and most real estate and construction experts agree that money spent on a better kitchen translates directly into higher home value. The good news is that you do not need to go overboard and invest half of the market value of your property just to get a fantastic new kitchen. There are strategies and approaches that are both price sensitive and aesthetically pleasing, in other words, so that your kitchen makeover can have huge positive impact on your quality of life without adversely impacting your bank account.

If you think that you may be selling your home within the next few years a kitchen redo can also add powerful sales appeal which often translates into a faster sale at a higher price. By making smart design and implementation decisions, in other words, it is possible to get a substantial return on your investment in ways that will be visible to others and enjoyable by you and your family.

Here are some ideas for how to make that kind of kitchen project happen, even if you are on a budget.

• Consult a Pro

Before deciding what to do it is a wise investment to spend $200-$300 and hire a home inspector to evaluate the safety of your kitchen and the mechanical functioning of your appliances. Sometimes it costs less to replace an aging fridge, for example, than to pay higher energy bills as it consumes more than it should. You may also have electrical circuits that do not meet local building safety standards, or you may have an improperly configured gas line. Your inspector will give you a complete report that can serve as a baseline or benchmark, along with recommendations regarding which repairs or upgrades demand the highest priority attention.

• Expand Your Kitchen with Space Savers

You can create additional square footage in any kitchen without breaking down walls or adding floor space. There are manufacturers who sell skinny vertical storage shelves, for example, that roll in and out of small spaces between appliances and counters. So you can add several square feet of storage space in hideaway spots that otherwise go unused.

You can also hang pots, pans, and glassware from the ceiling or have a designer show you how to reconfigure cabinets or pantry space in order to make it larger and more efficient. Center islands can house everything from shelves and cabinets to trash compactors and dishwashers, and you may be able to extend your counter space by upgrading just the counter tops – not the entire counter.

• Improve the Room’s Outward Appearance

Next, focus on the cosmetic look of the kitchen – especially if you are doing your upgrades in order to improve the marketability of the home. If the cabinetry looks dates, for example, consider upgrading with a new stain that adds luster and character – and also change out the hardware or replace the fronts of the cabinets. Switching out solid doors and replacing them with glass doors, for instance, can add a feeling of lightness and spaciousness. By the same token if you have glass door that show off too much interior clutter on the shelves then you can add solid doors painted in vibrant, attractive colors.

Similarly you can add new flooring and wall paint or strategic accent lighting and new countertops and plumbing fixtures to achieve the look of a new kitchen without the expense. Most people do not know that you can also buy replacement exterior door panels for many major appliances such as refrigerators and stoves. Sometimes if the appliances are in good working condition that kind of upgrade can be a big visual improvement. Also concentrate on the traffic flow of your kitchen, trying to arrange it so that the cook is never more than three strides away from anything critical such as the sink, stove, fridge, or oven.

Plan ahead while relying on the guidance of experienced professionals. Allocate the money you will need to complete the project, including an additional 15 percent added to your budget to cover unexpected cost overruns and expenses or inflation in the prices of construction materials. Then stick to your design and don’t waver from the original budget and plan. Altering remodeling plans while you’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel project is one of the primary reasons people go over their budget and experience stress, frustration, and unwanted delays. But adjusting plans and ideas on the drawing board before you start doesn’t cost a penny. So spend lots of time brainstorming beforehand and then stay within your design parameters and you’ll help ensure a faster and more rewarding outcome.

Home Maintenance and Safety Tips for Hurricane Season

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 4:55 pm

Sometimes when we least expect it, severe weather arrives along with official warnings to get prepared as quickly as possible. During hurricane season, for instance, homeowners often find themselves scrambling to get ready for a worst case scenario of wind, rain, flooding, and power outage.

When a hurricane threatens, emergency home maintenance measures to keep family, home, and property safe need to be deployed without delay. But despite the fact that time is of the essence you may suddenly find yourself without the basic necessities we often take for granted. You may be trying to implement hurricane preparedness strategies, for example, without the benefit of gas, electricity or running water. So it is really important to plan as far ahead as possible and have your supplies at hand with contingency plans ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
Before a hurricane strikes, map out a plan and create a hurricane preparation shopping list. This can save lots of time and worry when you are in a hurry. Do you have a list of emergency contact numbers? Are all of your important insurance documents photocopied in a place that you can get your hands on them fast so you can take them with you if you evacuate? You’ll want a file with an inventory of your belongings, too, so that you can file a claim if they are lost or destroyed.
How will you quickly remove, store, or fasten down outdoor furniture, awnings, garbage cans, and other items so they don’t create a hazard during high winds? You may need to buy bungee cords or rope and set aside some extra space in the garage or basement. You can also tie outdoor items together with a length of garden hose and then secure them to a tree or other stable object.
If you do not have sturdy window shutters, you’ll want to take an inventory of all the windows in your house so that you will know how much plywood it takes to cover them all. You’ll also need wood screws, wing nuts, or other fasteners to help attach plywood over each window, and you may need extension ladders or scaffolding. Even if you aren’t going to do the work yourself you’ll need the phone number of a reliable contractor. You will also want their reassurance that if you call on short notice they can get the job done promptly, so the time to interview contractors is long before hurricane season. Keep in mind that oftentimes the weakest part of a home is the garage door. Garage doors are notoriously susceptible to damage from high winds, but there are retrofitting kits available at home improvement stores that help strengthen them to protect your home from wind and water damage.

Consider other logistics and make similar plans and shopping lists. That way when an emergency strikes you won’t have to fret over the small, important details. No matter where you live, even if it is in a region of the country that is not prone to hurricanes, you should have enough emergency supplies to handle any natural disaster. This includes, for instance, enough food and water to comfortably sustain everyone in your family – including pets – for at least 72 hours. If anyone takes medicines you’ll need to include those in the list of supplies, and along with food items you’ll need a way to prepare them. A camping stove, for example, may be essential.

One of the most vital items in your supply kit is a water purification system of some sort. The most practical way to purify water for most people is by boiling it, but water purification tablets are also a good idea. Keep in mind that each tablet only purifies a relatively small container of water, so stock up on enough to maintain an adequate water supply for a few days.

Don’t forget the batteries. That includes auxiliary ways to power-up cell phones and laptops, so make sure you have enough adaptors and car charger to enable you to recharge those devices in your vehicle – since your car battery may be your best source of electricity. Also make sure that any boats or vehicles you own are in a well-protected place, and that the vehicle you will use to evacuate has a full tank of gas.