May 31, 2012

Real Estate: How to deal with mortgage servicing company chaos.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 1:25 pm

One of the biggest annoyances in the wake of the mortgage and banking crisis has to do with mortgage service companies. These specialized firms are usually third party businesses that are hired by banks and mortgage lenders to take care of the details of serving the accounts of people who take out home loans. Unless you do business with a very small and localized lender, for example, chances are that your monthly statements, your escrow account, and other vital aspects of your mortgage are handled by a contracted servicing company.

But when banks sell their mortgages to other investors or lenders, a phenomenon that is very common these days, they usually terminate their arrangement with the mortgage servicing company. The next owner of the mortgage paper hires their own servicing company. That means that if you have a mortgage for many years and it is bought and sold multiple times you will likely wind up changing mortgage service companies several times.

Lately that kind of musical chairs scenario has become even more prevalent, because loans are moving around faster than ever before in a global financial marketplace where investments rapidly change hands. It is not unusual, for example, to take out a new home loan and then experience a change in your servicing company even before you make the first payment.

The problem is that many homeowners are puzzled about how to deal with situations that arise when these handlers of mortgage accounts suddenly change. So here are some insights that may help.

What to Expect:

If your mortgage company does sell your loan – or if your bank is acquired by another financial institution – then you will likely get a new mortgage servicing company. Your lender should notify you about two weeks in advance of the transfer, and the new company servicing your mortgage should notify you within a couple of weeks of receiving your account.

Making Loan Payments:

In the meantime, you may not be sure where to send your monthly payment. But if you accidentally send it to the old mortgage servicer don’t worry about it. As long as you made the payment on time it should get credited to you without any problems. Even if you pay it late – because you weren’t sure where to send it – you should be given a special grace period. During that time you won’t be charged a late fee or penalty.

Payment Grace Period:

These grace periods typically last for 60 days. While you don’t want to abuse the grace period, it does provide a safety net by allowing you time to sort things out and direct your payment to the right place. But if you inadvertently mailed it to the old address, don’t panic. That old service company is responsible for forwarding it to the new one.

Escrow Accounts:
One of the biggest causes for concern is escrow accounts, where your money is set aside in reserve to pay for critical obligations such as homeowner’s insurance and property taxes. The mortgage servicing company is responsible for accounting for that cash and also for making the corresponding payments on time. Keep track of your printed statements during the changeover period, and if you spot any errors or discrepancies report them to the mortgage service company

You should always double check your monthly and annual statements to ensure that the data is correct – including such things as your contact information and record of payments. If you have a complaint, however, don’t hesitate to contact the mortgage servicing company. If they are not cooperative then you can forward your complaint to your local or national consumer protection agencies.

Home Maintenance: DIY vs. Call in the Pros

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 1:24 pm

There are many home maintenance and repair skills that can serve a homeowner well. Those range from knowledge of how to unplug a drain or replace the mechanisms in a toilet tank to knowing how to patch drywall, paint a room, clean the gutters, or mend a fence. But experts all agree that one of the most useful bits of know-how is to understand when it’s time to forget trying to do it yourself and call in a professional instead.

The trick is to determine whether or not a project around the house is too much for you to handle – before it’s too late. In that regard, here are some really helpful guidelines:

• Is the work especially hazardous?

Trust your gut and listen to your fear barometer. If the roof is a little too steep, don’t go up there. When you’re tinkering around with electrical wires and a little voice in your head reminds you that if you cross the wrong wires you’ll get jolted, listen to that voice.

Sometimes a homeowner will get out a wrench to install a natural gas appliance and someone in the family will say “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Pay attention to these red flags, because your life may depend on them. Nothing is more valuable than the health and safety of you and your family, so whenever a project may be a little too dangerous, talk to the professionals. Don’t take any chances; it’s just not worth the risk.

• Does the job require special tools and equipment?

Sometimes DIY projects require special tools, but you may only use those tools one time. Tools and equipment lose their resale value fast, so if you have to buy a special set of wrenches just to do a minor repair on an appliance, it might be better to call someone. Filling in the gaps and voids in crumbling brickwork is not a terribly difficult task, for example, but you will need to buy a few masonry tools that you may never again use on any other projects.

If you can rent the equipment then it might make sense, but when you have to make permanent investments that you cannot financially justify, that’s a good time to hire a contractor to do the work.

• If you make mistakes, will you realize it?

There are some jobs that you do that may have unintended consequences, and when you realize you made an error you have to go back and redo the whole thing. Maybe you hang a door and then realize it’s crooked or you paint a room and after the paint dries you notice that it doesn’t completely cover the old paint job. That’s no big deal, it’s just frustrating. But if you put siding on your house incorrectly it could create an invisible leak and before you notice it the framing around your home could be rotten. If you do your own electrical work the wrong way you might not find out until your home catches fire and burns to the ground or someone in your family gets electrocuted.

So if you are doing a job that has the potential for camouflaged errors and hidden mistakes that could create a catastrophe you ought to call the pros. A good rule to follow is that if the job involves tasks that normally require that contractors have a license, it’s beyond the scope of DIY. Leave it to a licensed professional.

• What about official building codes?

You also don’t want to invest time, money, and energy in a project that does not comply with building codes. Lots of people finish out a basement or rewire the garage but when they go to sell their home they find out that it won’t pass an inspection or qualify for a certificate of occupancy because of code violations.

When you are not sure about how to interpret building codes or whether they apply to your particular project, call an inspector and find out for sure. Otherwise you could be setting yourself up for a big fine and could also be forced to undo all the work you did. You could also lose valuable home equity, because homes with blatant code violations will not appraise as well, and they won’t market and sell as easily.

Even people who make a living in the trades as masons, carpenters, plumbers, or landscapers all realize that there are limits to DIY solutions. They will oftentimes hire their own contractors or subcontractors, despite the fact that they have expertise that may be far superior to that of the average homeowner. But that’s because they know that when you reach the tipping point where doing it by yourself is harder, more expensive, or more dangerous, it pays to pick up the phone.

Home Safety and Lightning Strikes

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 1:23 pm

There was a news story earlier this year about a fellow who lives in South Carolina and has really bad luck when it comes to lightning strikes. Believe it or not, the guy has been hit three times within the past three years and seven times in his life. Chances are he has really strange body chemistry – unless he just happens to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also seems to have the right kind of personal magnetism to deflect lightning once it hits him, because although he has some telltale burn scars and suffers from random headaches, he’s still amongst the living.

Although his experience is definitely the exception to the rule, lightning does harm and kill lots of people each year. Lightning is, for example, the leading cause of fires in both rural as well as suburban areas – and lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes combined. According to official statistics the average home will also be within 1500 feet of a lightning strike more than 60 times each year. So here are some tips and guidelines regarding how to protect yourself and your property when massive charges of electricity bold down from out of the sky:

• Get away from doors and windows, electrical outlets, and electrical appliances. If the thunderstorm is already in progress, don’t try to unplug gadgets like computers, televisions, and phones.

• Water can conduct electricity so avoid using running water. Don’t turn on any faucets, for example, and don’t take a shower. Stay clear of swimming pools, and if you are boating get to land as fast as possible.

• If you are caught outdoors, a car can provide safe shelter because if it is struck by lightning the juice will travel around the metal body of the car and continue down into the ground.

• Never take shelter under a tree, but try to find an area of lower elevation and crouch down. Don’t lie down or place your hands on the ground. Just cover your ears with your hands and stoop into a tight crouch.

You should also know that a properly installed “whole house” lightning protection system can be almost 100 percent effective in preventing fires and other damage from lightning. So if you live in a lightning-prone area you may want to invest in one of these. Many utility companies offer special programs to provide and professionally install these systems, so contact your electricity provider to see if they offer this kind of service. If not, you can enlist the help of a licensed electrician.

In the meantime, be sure to connect all of your gadgetry and electronic equipment to a surge protector device available at most home improvement or electronics stores like Home Depot or Best Buy. Choose one with a high rating, because those that only protect up to a minimum level may fail to adequately protect you, whereas those capable of stopping big surges will give you superior protection and peace of mind. Those can virtually eliminate any problems to sensitive electronic equipment, too, which can free you from the aggravation of destroyed TVs and computers.

You may also want to have a qualified home inspector come to your home and evaluate its safety in terms of protection from electrical surges. The inspector can review your circuit breakers, individual outlets, and so forth and make recommendations for upgrades or repairs as needed. Every home should already have special surge protection electrical outlets, for instance, near sources of water like tubs and sinks in the bathroom and kitchen. Your inspector can spot those and tell you whether or not they are properly installed. That’s important to prevent accidental electrocution because some homes have the right face plates on the wall with little red and black buttons. But they do not have the correct wiring to support these surge protection devices. In that case it is just like having a smoke detector without batteries. So if you have an inspection done you can use the inspection report, which includes photos, descriptions, and checklists, to help convey the technical information about what needs to be done to your electrical contractor.

Homeowner Tip: Grow a lawn that’s financially and ecologically green.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 1:22 pm

Many homeowners want to know how to grow a beautiful, lush lawn while also avoiding harsh chemicals that are damaging to the environment. Plenty of parents with small children have legitimate concerns, for example, when it comes to storage and usage of toxic chemicals in and around their homes.

Potential Problems with Conventional Products
Every year tons of hazardous lawn and garden fertilizers and pesticides go from the home improvement store to the home, their packaging covered with extensive legal disclaimers and warning labels about keeping them out of the reach of children and pets. But we all know that in summertime children and their pets always end up rolling around in the grass.

Those chemicals also frequently migrate into the soil and down into the water table, or they get washed away by rain and drain into the municipal water system. These chemicals can also cause severe damage to rivers and streams, which in turn destroys environments where we enjoy summertime fishing and swimming.

A Greener, More Organic Lawn
To help you learn how your grass can be grown with more organic methods, there are a few basic tips and guidelines to get you started. Extensive research confirms, for example, that higher cuts yield bigger benefits. First of all, slighter taller and thicker grass tends to choke out weeds more effectively and your lawn’s insect and disease resistance increases. Taller grass has a larger and more robust root system, too, which makes your grass hardier and more drought resistant.

When cutting the grass always be sure to use sharp mower blades. Not only does this make mowing smoother and less strenuous – while it prolongs the life of your mower – but it also makes cleaner, more surgical cuts. Those leave behind fewer openings for disease and insect infestations, just as thin paper cuts on your finger are less prone to get infected than are jagged, rougher, larger gashes.

Do a soil test, to ensure a balanced diet tailored to the specific needs of your yard. If the soil shows a calcium deficiency you can top-dress it with gypsum. Soil low in magnesium can be treated with the mineral langbeinite, and almost any soil will benefit from organic fertilizers that are now available at most home improvement stores. These contain natural minerals and nutrients like potassium from seaweed, phosphorus from bone meal, and nitrogen from feather meal.

If you’d like to find organic grass seed suitable to your climate, check out suppliers such as DLF Organic – one of the pioneers in certified organic lawn seed grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

Fringe Benefits
Oftentimes the same non-organic fertilizers used to treat lawns wind up in flower beds or vegetable gardens where they can disrupt the chemistry of those plants that require a different balance of nutrients. Cutting back on those reduces that unwanted side effect, while it may also save money. Constant fertilization and application of pesticides gets expensive, which is counterproductive. The real goal here is to save time, money, and labor – while also ensuring that a lawn has great grass. So it’s important to understand that the underlying philosophy behind all organic gardening is that healthy plants are less susceptible to disease. They can do a better job of taking care of themselves because their immune system mechanisms are robust. Just as humans often lead healthier lives if they eat fresher, more organic foods, the same applies to plants like grass.

Meanwhile homeowners who strive to cultivate a more ecologically sustainable lawn often find that there are some significant fringe benefits beyond the reduction of their chemical imprint on the earth. They save money, so they can keep their bank accounts greener. They also save time. Lots of homeowners find that the more they “go green” in terms of how they treat their lawns the greener their lawns grow without constant oversight and maintenance.
As your grass becomes less dependent upon outside intervention in the form of toxic chemicals to help it grow, in other words, you get to spend fewer weekends fussing over the weak, sick patches of grass. You may have to mow more frequently if you grass comes up stronger, but that’s a problem lots of homeowners with lousy lawns wish they had.

May 2, 2012

The Home Inspection Profession: A diversified field with plenty to offer besides just buyer-ordered inspection services.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:00 am

Home inspectors play a key role in the real estate industry, and their expertise covers a pretty wide range of knowledge, skill, and insight. In some ways they share a lot in common with many other building industry professionals, including general contractors, architects, and engineers. Home inspectors have to understand a great deal about the mechanical and structural components of homes, for example, with a good grasp and overview of everything from HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems to building codes and safety procedures.

There are lots of different categories of home inspectors, too, because it is a broad and diversified field. So while most people use a home inspector when they want to find out the condition of a home they are interested in buying, there are plenty of other reasons to enlist the help of a home inspector. Depending upon their specialty, they may also know to how to detect the presence of termites and carpenter ants or how to spot asbestos fibers in siding or insulation. They sometimes have extra training that enables them to perform swimming pool inspections, for instance, or they may have the high-tech gadgets and expertise to conduct an energy audit and find out ways to save money on heating and air conditioning.

Homeowners soon learn that there are plenty of projects around the house that require professional help. Home maintenance is frequently a do-it-yourself endeavor, and doing routine repairs and improvements to your house or condo or its outside landscape can be rewarding and satisfying. You can save money, learn some new skills, get some extra exercise, and even have fun doing projects to maintain or enhance your home. But ever so often you realize that you can save more time and money – and be safer and more confident about the outcome – by calling in a consultant to help diagnose or solve a problem. The great thing about having a qualified home inspector to turn to at times like those is that they can give you lots of information and guidance across a whole spectrum of issues without you having to invest a exorbitant amount of money.

If you call in a handyman, for instance, before you know exactly what is going on with your home you may wind up with one who charges you to do work that was not really necessary. That could cost you a great deal of money and still leave you in a position where you need to hire someone else to come back and address the problem. Or you might have a leaky roof, for example, and call a roofing company that prescribes a whole new roof. How will you know whether you need the new roof or just need some relatively minor and inexpensive repairs and roof maintenance procedures? You could always hire a certified engineer or architect, because once they put their stamp on a report they are staking their profession on it. They have advanced degrees that make them the professors of the construction world, too, which is why they are often used for major projects or to oversee the construction of expensive commercial developments. But they charge a great deal for their time, too, and unless you have a really serious and potentially catastrophic problem on your hands there is probably not justifiable reason to hire an engineer or an architect. If you just need your annual physical checkup, in other words, you do not make an appointment with a brain surgeon. When your pickup truck gets mud on it you take it to the car wash, you don’t take it to the body shop or back to the dealership’s service department.

Similarly, when you have a homeowner question that demands a professional answer and you don’t want to risk getting ripped off or paying for services that are much more elite and expensive than you might need, a home inspector is the right person to call. That’s why many homeowners have their inspector perform a routine general visual inspection once every year or two. For around $200-$400 bucks they can get a complete written report, including photographs, checklists, and expert recommendations. By going through the report they can isolate potential problem areas or find out about suggested repairs, and then call the appropriate subcontractor or other professional if and only if additional attention and work is needed. In lots of instances the cost of hiring the inspector to find out the condition of the home pays for itself many times over, because the homeowner is able to make informed decisions while also doing the kind of preventive maintenance that is affordable and preempts the need for more invasive or complicated repairs.

Newly Enacted Real Estate Rules Help Homeowners

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 9:57 am

Two new initiatives were recently announced by the Obama Administration, and both of them should help millions of homeowners who have been struggling due to the ongoing housing market crisis. One of the policies will help people refinance their troublesome FHA-insured loans. The other strives to give compensation to members of the military who experienced situations where banks forced their homes into foreclosure or refused them the chance to refinance. Many service personnel were unfairly denied these opportunities, even while on deployment, and the new initiative aims to reimburse them.
FHA Cuts Upfront Refinancing Fees

If you have a federally insured mortgage, a new policy recently enacted in Washington may make it easier for you to refinance to a loan with a lower interest rate and more manageable monthly payments. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has started to trim the upfront fees for refinanced loans it already insures. This applies to borrowers whose FHA loans were issued before June 1, 2009, but that applies to about three million homeowners who stand to save a thousand dollars or more per year.
Borrowers who refinance their existing FHA loans will pay an upfront insurance premium equal to 0.1% of the mortgage amount, which means that refinancing a $200,000 loan will cost $200. They also have to pay an annual fee of .55%. This compares quite favorably to the cost of taking out a new FHA loan. Typically borrowers have to pay a 3.5% down payment for a new FHA loan, plus upfront costs of 1.75% and a 1.25% annual fee.

The new policy makes it simpler for banks to refinance FHA loans because the banks do not have to record the refinance loans in a way that hurts their loan portfolio performance rating. In the past many banks were reluctant to refinance these loans, especially if the homeowner did not have excellent credit, because of high default rates and loan repayment risks. But under these new guidelines banks will be able to offer the refinances to people who may not have such high credit scores.
Members of the Military Get Justice from Banks

President Obama also announced proactive steps that will provide financial compensation to service members whose homes were wrongfully foreclosed upon or who suffered other similar outcomes because of unfair or negligent banking practices.

• Because of this new government initiative, for example, mortgage lenders and mortgage services providers are now required to go back and review the case of every single service member whose home went into foreclosure within the past six years.
• If they lost their home due to wrongful actions then the lender will have to pay them for their lost equity, plus interest, and banks will also have to pay an additional penalty of at least $116, 500 to the service member.
• If a service member was unjustly denied their request to refinance at the 6% interest rate mandated by the government, they will be refunded whatever amount they have been overcharged, plus interest.
• Military members who bought homes between July 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008 but had to sell at a loss because they were ordered to move to a different permanent station may also be eligible for reimbursement for the amount they lost.

These fines and payouts are for the financial loss as well as for the emotional distress that was inflicted upon the borrowers. The United States Attorney General’s office also made it clear that the amounts cited are the minimum compensation, and that overall payouts may go even higher.

Meanwhile the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development explained that it is not yet possible to know just how many service members were affected and will be eligible for compensation. But one of the banks, Bank of America, has already been forced to repay funds to more than 150 borrowers. Experts believe that there may have been thousands of military personnel who were victims of unfair mortgage practices.

Members of the armed services who believe that their rights were unfairly denied by Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, or Ally Financial can contact the Justice Department (800-896-7743) and file a formal complaint.

Homeowner Tips for Window Washing Season

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:56 am

It’s easy for windows to get covered with a dirty film that diminishes the beauty of a home while also making it hard for you to see out or for the sunshine to get in, especially with all the pollen in the air this time of year. The pollen falls and then the spring showers come, and the next thing you know those sparkling windows are smudged and dull.

The longer you procrastinate and put off the dreaded task of washing the windows, the harder that job will become. But if you do a good job of maintaining the window glass around your home then the windows clean-up faster and easier. That makes the whole job a much simpler routine home maintenance project.
But of course it always helps if you have the right tools and techniques for the job. Washing windows is not rocket science, and it is one of the easiest of all home maintenance tasks. But there are some simple skills involved that make a huge difference in how long it takes to wash the windows and how well they look once you’re finished.

Washing windows may look deceptively easy, in other words, but in that respect it is a lot like house painting. Everyone thinks they know how to paint a house. But once they get into the project they often realize that things can go awry and get really messy in a hurry. It’s usually not their fault; it’s just that they don’t have the same tools and secret tricks of the trade that professional painters use. Even a pro will continue to add new tips and clever techniques to their repertoire, just to make the job go faster and easier. So it helps if you employ the same kinds of methods that the professionals use.

• You’ll want a good quality squeegee that has handle extensions or a telescoping handle so that it can do the reaching for you. A good quality window washing solution is also necessary to cut through the grime.
• Rather than using whatever spray is on the shelf at your local supermarket, go to a home improvement store and ask one of the associates to recommend a contractor grade window cleaning product.
• Then, instead of buying cloth rags or rather expensive chamois to wipe your windows clean, just recycle some old newspapers. News print is ideal for window washing because it tends to leave no annoying streaks behind the way fabric does.
• You just wad it up and use circular movement to wipe the windows down, starting at the top and working your way down. But you can go through a lot of newspaper in a short amount of time, and as soon as it gets soggy you should toss it and start with a fresh wad of paper.
• It is also a good idea to go back over the window, after you have cleaned it with the detergent solution, and rinse it with fresh, clean water – just as you might do when washing your car. Dry the window glass one last time with more newspaper and you’re good to go.
• You may need to remove screens from windows to get to the glass panes, and if you do this remove one at a time and then replace it before moving along to the next dirty window. Otherwise if you just take off all the screens at once you might get them mixed up, and if any of them are not exactly the same fit and dimensions it can be aggravating to try to find the one that matches a particular window.

But before you grab the bucket and rags, the first thing to do is to evaluate the nature of the job. If it involves climbing out on a steep roof or scaling a tall ladder to get to windows that are upper floors, then it is usually cheaper and safer to just hire a window washer who does this kind of work for a living. They’ll have the safety equipment, scaffolding, or extension ladders needed to get to those hard-to-reach windows, and they can come to your home and have the job finished in a jiffy.
Even if you prefer to do all your own home maintenance, contracting this kind of job out is usually a no-brainer because of the basic costs involved. If you have to rent a scaffold, buy a ladder that can cost more than what it takes to pay a professional, for example, and hiring them frees you up to do something else. So you’ll save time and money. Falling off a ladder or sliding off the roof can get pretty expensive too, and you may wind up with a hospital bill and higher health insurance premiums or worse still, a permanent injury or even an untimely death. So be smart, and always do a simple cost-benefit analysis before you begin a potentially hazardous DIY project.

Home Security: Preparing to survive a tornado.

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 9:53 am

Tornado’s have caused wreaked havoc across the USA this year, causing dozens of deaths and the tragic loss of homes, neighborhoods, and large swaths of community property and municipal infrastructure. They strike fast, often behave in unpredictable ways, and do catastrophic damage in a matter of seconds. More than 1,200 tornadoes strike across the nation every year, and they often hit in the wake of a thunderstorm when the skies are relatively clear and they literally come out of the blue.

Unfortunately most homeowners – including those who live in the most tornado-prone places – don’t have an adequate safety plan to help them survive a tornado. Many rely on tactics that are obsolete or live in structures that are not properly constructed to ensure a greater level of protection. Every family should pause for a moment and review their tornado safety strategies and systems. Sometimes instituting one small and rather insignificant change or doing a minor update or upgrade to an existing plan is sufficient preparation to mean the difference between life and death when tornadoes strike.

For starters, if you live in a community where there are public warning sirens that sound when dangerous weather approaches you should not rely on those for your survival. The sirens may work just fine, but high winds move too fast. By the time they hear the alert many people in the path of a tornado already have it on top of them and it is too late to even cross the room, much less get to suitable shelter. Every household should instead have a weather radio. The simple gadget can notify you earlier than other forms of warning systems can, giving you a critical window of opportunity so that you can get yourself and your loved ones into a more secure place.

Get as low as possible. Lay face down and cover your head and face with your arms and hands. If you don’t have a basement or cellar, go to a first floor interior room, away from doors and windows. Bathrooms are often a secure option, and if you get into the tub that can give you extra protection. Get under a sturdy table if possible. Leave the windows and doors shut. But if you are in a mobile home, trailer, or vehicle you need to get out of there because you are safer elsewhere. Evacuate and seek the lowest possible location – such as the basement of a neighbor’s house, a building with a strong foundation, a ditch, or even a low depression in the ground.
If you are building a home, there are also extra steps you can take to ensure your safety. The minimum standards of the International Residential Code, which is the building code routinely followed in the USA, are oftentimes not enough to resist high winds from tornadoes or hurricanes. To make homes stronger, they should be constructed using what is known as a “continuous load path.” This is a series of connections that basically ties the various parts of a home together to reinforce the entire structure.

Think of how rugby players form a human chain by interlocking their arms when moving down the field or how a lattice holding up your rose bushes will support them better than if you grew them on individual stakes. The idea is to interlock the components of the home to make it harder for high winds to rip it apart. Rafters are bolted to plates, for instance, and the plates are connected to the studs that frame the home. Then the framing itself is attached to bottom plates that are tied into the foundation. That makes the various parts unified from the roof all the way to the foundation to create a more resilient and secure architectural skeleton that is not just tacked together by nails.

To learn more about whether or not your home has special vulnerabilities and how to remedy them, or to just get a good safety evaluation of your property, contact a qualified home inspector who does both structural and safety-oriented inspection work. The price you pay for a consultation or inspection to make your home and family more secure is a mere fraction of what you could potentially save by protecting yourself from the damage that occurs when a severe weather emergency strikes.

Spring Showers and Home Maintenance

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 9:50 am

In America we don’t have a monsoon season (exception of AZ) as they do in many other parts of the world where the majority of their annual rainfall happens virtually all at once. But we do have a lot of rain and thundershowers this time of year, and water is one of the most powerful elements on the planet. That’s especially evident when it decides to start washing away your lawn, invading your basement, or pouring through a roof that is in dire need of repair.
To help avoid the problems that can fall from the sky in the form of spring showers, here are some helpful home maintenance tips.

• Start with a Top-Down Approach

Water follows the path of least resistance as it falls out of the sky and across your property. So the first place to look for problem areas is on the roof. Curling shingles are a telltale sign that your roof needs repair, if not replacement, and missing flashing or roofing caulk around vents, chimneys, and seams is another invitation for water to enter your home.

Next, make sure the gutters are clean and well-supported and that they are pitched properly to allow water to run through them into the gutter pipes and drains. Gutters should drain in such a way that the water flows away from your home’s foundation and doesn’t splash or collect in inconvenient places such as doorways or walkways.

To redirect water when gutter spouts open in the wrong place you don’t have to replace the gutter pipe, either. Just attach a length of corrugated black plastic drain pipe to the spout. You can then run that pipe wherever you want it to go, such as to the edge of the yard or into your garden. You can also bury it to avoid tripping over it and so that it won’t be an eyesore in your landscape.

• Check for Low Level Drainage Problems

After it rains, police your yard to look for problem spots where the water puddles instead of draining as it should. You may need to remedy these areas by adding some dirt to fill depressions in the yard. If the situation is serious enough it may require regarding of the landscape. When water drains toward the building foundation, for example, it can cause serious structural issues, flooding, or damage to your home. In that case the dirt and gravel around the perimeter of the foundation may need to be graded such that water flows down and away from your home.

The same kind of situation can occur when patios, driveways, and other hard surfaces were not properly angled or graded. So if you have a flagstone patio, for instance, and the water puddles or flows toward your house instead of away, that may become a problem. You also don’t want water to flow into your garage or work shed every time there is a hard rain. When you notice that kind of thing happening it is a good idea to consult a home inspector or contractor and find out what kinds of solutions they can recommend.

• Combat Unwanted Moisture

Then there is the water that is a bit more subtle. It collects as fog or moisture in all the wrong places in your home, like in the basement. When a ceiling fan in a bathroom does its job, for instance, it helps to dry out the space while pulling moist air out of the home. But if it is not properly installed that damp air that collects each time you shower might wind up deposited in the space above the bathroom ceiling or in an adjacent wall where it can create smelly mildew, wet insulation material, and toxic mold.

Basements are notorious, especially if they are not properly ventilated or if the masonry surfaces in them are not sealed as they should be. Water pipes flowing through the basement, water wicked from the ground outside, and rain leaking through cracks and gaps will often create moisture, for instance, that accumulates unless there is a system to stop it or evaporate it. Plants also collect moisture. If you have bushes growing too close to the foundation of your home and shrubbery that touches the sides of your house that means that you have too much water touching your house.

Another problem that springtime showers can cause is accidental falls and injuries. When surfaces underfoot get wet, they tend to get slippery. That’s why is so important that you have adequate drainage and traction on all outdoor walkways, patios, decks, and steps. Sometimes masonry surfaces need to be treated and etched in order to made them less slippery, for example, or special safety treads need to be installed on stairs. A home inspector can check for trouble spots like those found in and around the home, however, and recommend effective remedies. By eliminating the problems that too much water or moisture can create, especially during the rainy season, you automatically prevent unnecessary work, repair, and expense. You also help to ensure that your home is both comfortable and safe, and there is no way to put a price tag on the value of that for you and your family.