January 18, 2013

Pro-Sight Property Inspection Reports: The best reports in the business.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 1:30 pm

Much of the value of the inspection that you pay for comes after the actual inspection happens, when it is time to format that information into an understandable and comprehensive report. After all, what’s the use of investing in an inspection – no matter how good the inspector happens to be – if you can’t decipher the results?

That’s why Pro-Sight Property Inspections® Inspector Members use the absolute best inspection report in the industry. We not only want to ensure that your inspection is the best you can buy, but that our ability to clearly convey that important information to you is also undeniably superior. The way we see it, the report is an extension of the inspection and the better the report, the better the inspection and the more value you get from our services.

Otherwise you can wind up in a situation like that game that children play where they pass a message along a line of other kids and see how garbled it becomes along the way. The inspector might know exactly what he or she sees. But knowing how to translate that into a format that is user-friendly without losing anything of importance and value along the way is not always so simple. Communication is the key. Being able to explain observations that may be rather technical in a way that the typical buyer or homeowner can comprehend is vital. That’s why we use a report that takes advantage of full color imagery that is even further enhanced by arrows and circles that are used whenever helpful in order to point your attention to a specific area being discussed.

Meanwhile the narrative or discussion portion of the report is carefully designed to illuminate and educate – not talk over your head or confuse you with construction industry jargon. We speak in an unambiguous and unemotional way to make sure that what is explained comes across plainly and unmistakably while it also avoids triggering any unnecessary and unintended response of fear or panic. No inspector should ever color a report in a negative manner, and no inspector of any integrity would ever intentionally do that. But many well-meaning inspectors inadvertently or accidentally do, in fact, trigger the fears and apprehension of the parties involved because they choose the wrong language or tone. We are highly aware of this issue and the sensitivity of the inspection report and its impact on the buyer and seller transaction – and that awareness is reflected in every word of your report.

We also divide the written part of your inspection report into two distinct sections, one with general comments and the other with a description of potential issues that we may have found. Minor findings are distinguished from more critical findings, so that you can tell while you read the report the degree of importance of whatever it is that the inspector discovered and is reporting back to you about.

Last but not least, we realize that many people speak other languages than English, so we use reporting software that is fully compatible with the Google Translate tool. That way you can view the report in virtually any language.

Real Estate Tips: The secret of the pre-sale process.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 1:27 pm

As most real estate professionals will tell you, springtime is the season when buyers come out of the woodwork in abundance, eager to tour homes. If you want to successfully market and sell yours this year, the best time to get it ready for sale is now. Wait until springtime is in full swing and you’ll miss a rare window of opportunity to be one of the first homes that potential buyers see.

The most effective way to sell a home is to do the kind of prior planning that allows the house to basically sell itself. But that requires that you do the background work to get it ready for its big debut. Find the best real estate broker or agent serving your neighborhood, meet with the right away, and map out a marketing plan. The strategy should start with a plan for adding as much curb appeal as possible – because once the listing goes live the show begins. If you can attract attention from people passing by the home and it is priced right, then your house will become a magnet for buyers.

One of the aspects of home selling that stresses out homeowners the most is the buyer-ordered inspection. That’s because these home sellers have no idea what the inspector might find. Will he or she discover a hidden problem that can require a much-needed and costly repair? No problems will be hidden if you have taken advantage of the expertise of a qualified inspector before putting the house on the market. You’ll have a full report, complete with a checklist of recommended repairs, and will be able to have the house ready to pass the buyer-ordered inspection before you ever begin the sales negotiation.

Skip the pre-sale inspection, though, and you invite unwanted complications. What if the buyer’s inspector is the first to see those problems and suggest repairs? Will the repair process take so long that the buyer will lose interest and shop elsewhere? If you take care of them ahead of time you don’t run that risk. What about the fact that repairs done during contract negotiations are more carefully scrutinized – making skeptical buyers harder to satisfy? Oftentimes repairs can be done before the house goes on the market so they pass the inspection with flying colors. Instead of becoming paranoid and more skeptical, the potential buyer has increased confidence that yours is a well-maintained home.

Once you’ve got your pre-sale report in hand, hire a contractor who can address any significant issues. This is another reason why February is a great month to do your pre-sale planning. Wait until everyone else in the neighborhood is getting their home ready to sell and the best contractors will already be booked-up and unavailable.

Just follow the simple 3-step process. Consult your Realtor. Schedule the pre-sale inspection. Meet with a repair person to address any necessary fixes prior to listing the home. Don’t delay, though, or you’ll miss you chance. The market will just become progressively more crowded throughout the rest of the year, and that means that you’ll face increased competition from other sellers. The greater the volume of competition, the more diluted the pool of qualified buyers. But get your house ready to sell and listed now and you’ll have the law of supply and demand on your side – with an enhanced possibility of attracting a higher price for your home.

Checklist for Homeowners: Go with the flow.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 1:26 pm

As temperatures begin to rise the rain will be here soon for most people who live in North America, and that makes this a good time for homeowners to check their drainage systems and foundation.

Police the Area and Take Notes
Wait until the first big thunderstorm, which will happen in late February or early next month is many regions. Then suit-up in raingear, and go outside to survey the situation. Look for places around your driveway, down spouts, and foundation where the water is pooling and creating the biggest puddles, because those are going to be the most vulnerable spots.

How Erosion Works
Any time water washes away dirt that can leave your home vulnerable to problems. The water then has the potential to undermine or invade solid structures like your home’s foundation and driveway. Once the dirt is gone, the water will seek its own level by running downhill. If the water seeps in around the edges of your walkways or driveway, for example, it will create pockets of air or voids underneath those structures. Instead of being firmly secured atop solid ground, that walkway will then have little spots where it is basically suspended over thin air. Drive your heavy SUV over one of those voids beneath the driveway, for instance, and the weight of the vehicles will cause the concrete or asphalt to give way. If the void is a small little tunnel created by a rivulet of water, you’ll wind up with a crack in the surface. If it was caused by a puddle you’ll get a pothole.

Assessing the Situation
The solution is, of course, to redirect the water away from those potential trouble spots that you discover when you do your walk-around inspection during a heavy downpour. You’ll need to evaluate each spot on its own to figure out the most efficient and effective approach to remedying the problem – but in practically every case it will have to do with drainage. Drainage will involve one or two things – or a combination of both. Either you need to change the tilt of the terrain to encourage the water to flow in a different direction or you need to find the source of the water and stop it.

Redirecting the Water
Follow the water back to its point of origin. If you see a big puddle next to the driveway, for example, trace the flow back to where it started. You might find that it came from the gutter’s downspout. In that case you need to redirect the spout so that when it drains the water goes away from your home and your driveway. You may also find that the water came rolling down the hill from your lawn. In that case you need to figure out how to grade or reshape that hill so that the water finds another path to follow that takes it away in a safe direction. Sometimes moving the landscape can be a major undertaking, however, especially if your yard is tilted in such a way that it is draining toward your home’s foundation instead of away from it. That’s when you should call in a professional landscape designer or similar contractor to evaluate the problem.

Ineffective Gutters
Oftentimes the gutter system suffers the most damage from winter. The water in them freezes, pushing them out of shape or creating so much additional weight from the ice that they sag or pull away from the house. Then the water than is supposed to run through them either spills over the sides or leaks behind them where it may seep into your walls. That’s especially true if the boards or siding are warped, damaged, or in need of painting. Even the smallest space can let water in where it should not be, so when you do your rainy day evaluation pay close attention to the gutter system. Everything should be flowing through the downspouts, and if it isn’t you need to come back when the sun is out and check for debris clogging the channels or gutter pipes that are bent, not installed at the proper angle for drainage, or not sufficiently supported in place. You should also pay attention to places where the gutters are clogged or damaged and the water is cascading over the sides of them onto your deck. The deck may be susceptible to rotting, and that can create bigger problems and safety hazards.

House Painting Tips

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 1:24 pm

The warmer weather will be here before you know it. During February you should start planning those painting projects and be prepared for house painting season. The harsh storms of winter can take a serious toll on a home, but a little cosmetic touch-up with paint can have it looking bright and beautiful. Here are some tips to make those do-it-yourself painting projects more successful and less stressful.

Drop Cloth
The first step is to use the best kind of drop cloth, because accidents and spills always happen. You certainly do not want to accidentally step on the paint roller tray and spill all that paint on your floor. Even if you are a tidy pro when it comes to a neat worksite when painting, your cat or dog is not. They might run into the room and cause an accident when you least expect it. Many homeowners use a plastic drop cloth because these are really cheap, easy, and disposable. Then there are others who prefer to use one made of fabric, and some homeowners even bring out the old bed sheets that have gotten shabby and throw those down. But if you want a great drop cloth that really does the job, buy one that combines the best of both worlds. Use the kind that has a moisture barrier backing that won’t let any paint leak through but has a top surface made of canvas that will absorb the paint that falls onto it. Why? Cloth by itself leaks and will still stain your floors. Plastic, on the other hand, holds the paint on its surface in little puddles – so you wind up with liquid paint spread all over the place where you are walking. Meanwhile the fabric over plastic sucks up the paint without letting it drip through to the floor, and these kinds of drop cloths are also affordably priced.

Sanding
The key to a good paint job is to commit yourself to the work of preparing the painting surface. Just as an artist will first take time to apply gesso to a canvas and then sand it down to achieve a first-rate painting surface before putting brush to paint, the same technique applies to house painting.

Sand away bumps and blemishes while wearing a dust mask and eye protection – otherwise you may lose lots of time due to coughing fits and breaks to wash out the particles of dust from your eyes. You should also arm yourself with a convenient long-handled sanding pad to avoid the hassle of climbing a stepladder.

Priming
Since ordinary primer is dead white, it is easy to spend the first coat or two of precious paint just trying to cover up the primed surface and get a true color scheme going. But priming is essential. The solution is to use a tinted primer that is compatible with the color you plan to apply on top of it. Paint manufacturers figured this out a long time ago, however, and that’s why they introduced lines of popular paint that have the primer already built into the paint. How well that kind of one-step application works will depend on how difficult it is to cover the original color. Some strong pigment colors like red and dark blue can require extra coverage. Test a sample, see how well the paint plus primer product works, and if it doesn’t do the trick then use a tinted primer. That will still give you a good base color but you’ll be putting a full dose of primer down – not one that has been diluted.

Paint Extender
But before you start painting, consider using a paint extender. These products are one of the secrets that professional paintings rely upon to get a smoother, creamier paint that also lasts considerably longer and doesn’t dry out too quickly. The most well-known brand of paint extender is Floetrol, and another good product that many painters prefer is Extend-All. Add the product according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and it will give you a paint that flows nicely while offering an extended window of opportunity to go back and touch-up those areas where the paint overlaps. Without the extender, for example, those overlapping areas will dry out before you have a chance to fix them – leaving you with areas that are too dark or where the edges appear a bit ragged.

Homeowner Safety: Checking heat sources at winter’s end.

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

Now that February has arrived, the end of winter is on the horizon and it is time to start gearing up for spring – the way the clothing stores at the mall are doing. Homeowners should know that although it seems ironic, this is the actually an ideal time to do a safety check of your heating system. Most people postpone this chore until late fall or early winter, because that’s the time of year when they start to feel the urgency to heat their homes. That may seem like the natural and appropriate time to address the issue, but it’s much easier to do it at the end of winter as you head into spring. Put in on your list now and be ready to do it by this time next month.

Boilers
If you have a boiler, it’s time to drain the old water out of the unit and refill it with clean, fresh water. You should also run the boiler and check the valves on each steam radiator to make sure they are in good working order. Oftentimes a radiator that doesn’t work is easily fixed by just replacing these valves – and a $40 or $50 repair can have them working like new again. Scheduling boiler repairs as springtime approaches is easy, too, since contractors are entering the slowest season of their year.

Gas Furnaces
Homeowners with a conventional gas furnace need to be sure that the heat exchanger is in tip-top condition. Some furnaces have one and others have more than one, but all of them need to be checked by an expert. Why is this so important? Over time they degrade and develop tiny cracks that can leak, sending poisonous carbon monoxide up into your heat ducks and home. Leaks in heat exchangers cause dozens of accidental deaths every year, and carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible. So this checkup is not just to be sure you stay warm during the colder months but also to guarantee that your family is not in danger of this silent and deadly killer.

Fireplaces and Chimneys
Those who have fireplaces should have their chimneys swept or stove pipes cleaned or replaced to avoid creosote accumulation. Creosote is a naturally occurring chemical deposit that looks like charcoal flakes and will cake the walls of the pipe or chimney. Leave it there until there is enough of it and it can ignite like charcoal, causing a catastrophic fire. The build-up also chokes off the air circulation, making it harder to build a fire and easier to create a blockage that will send smoke back into the interior of your home – where it can ruin furniture upholstery and paint jobs.

Heat Pumps
If you have a heat pump make sure the filter is always kept clean. You should also have it checked once a year to make sure its functioning properly and that all the ductwork is properly sealed and insulated. Not only does that contribute the safe operation of the unit but is also helps to substantially lessen your energy loss – which lowers heating and cooling cost.

The reason for doing these projects in late February or March, not October, is twofold. First of all, you’ll find contractors who are eager to come right over and do the job. Wait until next fall or winter and they will all be busier and charging higher fees for service calls. You’ll face potential long delays, and if your system checkup reveals problems then you may also have to deal with higher repair costs. Meanwhile the weather could change suddenly and you and your family that will be huddling in the house in your woolens, just trying to stay warm until the system gets fixed. Do it now. Then perform a simple check of the unit next winter before you fire it up again, to look for any minor maintenance that may need to be done.

January 15, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:30 am

The month of January is the natural time to make resolutions and try to embark on establishing new habits. If you are a homeowner, you should extend your resolution list to include items that relate to home maintenance. So here are some to consider when you set out to make that list.

Don’t Delay

Nobody looks forward to doing home maintenance projects. But the fact remains that the sooner you finish them, the better. Waiting too long only increases the chances that once you are finally ready to do the work it will be more urgent, more expensive, and more labor intensive.

We may not like washing the dishes, either. But if we let them pile up for a month that creates more serious problems – and those dishes become exponentially harder to clean. But if you do them right away they clean-up faster and you also relieve yourself of the stress of facing that task. Take the same approach to basic home maintenance chores during the New Year. You’ll find that at the end of the year you’ve saved lots of time and probably some hard-earned money, too.

Take the Preventative Approach

Focus on preventative home ownership versus a reactive, repair-oriented approach. When the tree falls on your flowerbed and you clean it up right away that’s great. But what feels even better is to preempt that from happening by monitoring your tree and having an arborist remove the dead limb long before it becomes a liability.

As the saying goes, “prior planning prevents problems.” When you do home maintenance on a preventative and preemptive level you avoid so many problems. You may, in fact, never have a home emergency again if you do a good enough job of maintenance. That saves you a lot of headaches, inconvenience, and cash. After all, wouldn’t you rather schedule your home maintenance chores when they are convenient, versus having them interrupt your other plans on short notice with an emergency?

Align Your Schedule with Your Home’s Calendar

But there are always going to be routine home maintenance tasks that you forget about or let slip through the cracks. That’s why it helps to schedule these kinds of chores in a predictable and easier to manage way. Instead of just replacing your air filters when they get dirty, for example, put in a new filter and then write the date of installation on the side of the filter. Next time it gets dirty, figure out how long it was since the installation date.

Then go to your personal calendar and mark off scheduled filter replacement dates. If a filter lasts 15 weeks, for instance, then you can just automatically replace them every 15 weeks. Most routine home maintenance can be done on this kind of a schedule, the same way you change the oil in your car after a certain number of months or miles or visit the dentist every six or 12 months.

Consult the Pros

Don’t leave the professionals out of the loop either. You may be responsible to brush and floss your own teeth between dentist appointments. But you don’t rely on the do-it-yourself approach when it’s time to check for cavities or gum disease or get braces for your kids. You go the dentist and get a clean bill of health or you get a simple cavity filling – and sidestep the disaster of a root canal. But if you never talk to the dentist you’re leaving everything up to chance.

The same applies to home maintenance. There are many things you can do yourself – but those only pay off when you also consult professionals on a regular basis. Conscientious homeowners will schedule a professional inspection once every 18 months or so, for example, to make sure they are not missing something really important. Those inspections will do one of two things – and both of them make the investment worthwhile. The inspector may find that everything is fine – and that’s worth the price of the inspection in terms of confirming the health of your home and giving you peace of mind. The other outcome is that the inspection may reveal a needed repair. That is worth the price of the inspection too, because it helps you avoid a bigger problem – the equivalent of a root canal procedure for your home.

These are steps that will definitely pay for themselves, too. Once you’ve gotten back the cost of your investment you’ll start ringing up savings over and over year after year – and that’s a great way to ring in the New Year for 2013.