July 15, 2013

Home Inspections and Repairs: A leaky roof.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:11 am

Problem:

Your home inspector – or the inspector working for the person planning to purchase your home – may come back with a written report that recommends repairs because of a leaky roof. These kinds of recommendations are common, because the roof is one of the biggest components of a building and it is also the one that is most exposed to the elements. Relentless weather year after year takes its toll on a roof, and even with routine maintenance they can develop weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Solution:
Sometimes shingles on a roof will be missing or turned upward, which allows moisture to get beneath them and migrate into the house. The flashing around roof vents and chimneys may also be in need of replacement, or the caulking and sealing may have developed a crack in it that’s letting water get past.
In more serious situations a fallen limb may have actually punctured the roof, or the contractor who installed the roof may have failed to follow proper procedure. Or it could be that the existing roof is just getting old, and after decades of doing its job it’s time to retire that roof and replace it with a younger one.

The first step is to hire a skilled and experienced roofing contractor, who will climb on the roof and conduct a closer investigation to determine the root of the problem. Once that is done you’ll have a better idea of the extent of the problem – which will likewise determine the extent of the repair. Some repairs can be quickly and affordably done with the right kind of caulk, a few extra shingles, or some new flashing. A severely damaged or outdated roof may need to be completely removed – and before installing the new roof you may have to repair the supporting infrastructure underneath.

Get recommendations for roofers in your area, check their credentials, and then compare their bids. Are they insured and bonded, in case a member of their crew is injured while on the job and to ensure that they will not simply start the job and then skip town at your expense? What quality materials will they use? Some shingles are rated to last 20 years, for example, while higher quality and more expensive shingles may be expected to last twice that long.

Keep in mind that when a crew is dismantling an old roof, they have to dump the debris somewhere. So negotiating for the safe handling and removal of this debris – including roofing nails that may wind up littering your driveway and puncturing automobile tires – is an important step when hiring a contractor. You also want to make sure that the roofer takes care not to damage landscaping features like plants and flowerbeds.

What about damage to the interior of the home? If there is a telltale leak that tipped off the inspector to the problem, for example, then after the roof is fixed the interior damage needs to be addressed. That can involve removing old, damp insulation materials, rotten wood, or checking any electrical wiring that may have been exposed to water. Then you’ll also need to patch the leak and repaint the area.

Real Estate Advice: The critical importance of understanding contracts.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:06 am

Legal speak – and the small print in real estate contracts – can give even a seasoned Realtor or attorney a headache. Nobody loves sitting down to read page after page of dense contract language, especially during the sweet days of summer when we’d rather be on vacation sipping umbrella drinks. But the fact remains that those paragraphs and descriptions are there for a reason, and part of that reason is to protect you and your best interests whenever you enter into a real estate transaction.

Realtor Contracts
One of the first contracts that most people sign when preparing sell a home is the agreement with their real estate broker. The document spells out the professional relationship and also the fees that you’ll be required to pay in exchange for real estate services. Pay attention to these, however, because failing to do so can bind you to terms that you may not understand.

Listing contracts all have an expiration date, for example, and many Realtors fill this in to give them the longest possible timeline within which to sell your home and earn a commission. But you don’t have to agree to a 6-month listing if you don’t want to because it’s your choice. You may prefer to engage their services for 2-3 months, and then reevaluate their performance at that time before deciding whether to extend the agreement. The commission fee is also negotiable, although most sellers don’t realize it. Especially in a sluggish market, it is often possible to negotiate a lower fee – but you won’t find out unless you try.

Escrow and Due Diligence
If you have signed a contract that requires you to hand over a cash deposit in the form of a payment held in escrow, make sure you understand the terms of the escrow agreement. Otherwise you could wind up losing all of that money if you later change your mind and decide to back out of the deal. By the same token, don’t be afraid to put your hard-earned money into escrow. It’s perfectly safe there, and by law it will stay there and be returned to you – with interest added, if applicable – as long as you fulfill your side of the contractual agreement.

When contracts include a due diligence clause, you must treat the due diligence date as a hard and fast deadline. The due diligence period is the timeframe allowed for you to conduct your investigation into the property. During this time you may want to have inspections or surveys done, for example, or solicit bids from contractors. If you decide to cancel the deal based on information uncovered by your due diligent research, you need to do so before that period expires. Once the date passes, you’re locked into the purchase contract and the penalty for changing your mind and backing out of the deal may become much greater.

Purchase Offers and Attorneys
Before signing a purchase offer, no matter how simple it may look, you should always show it to a qualified attorney. The one time that you decide to save a little time or money and skip that step may the time you make a mistake – but by then it will be too late. When you’re making a purchase or sale that could represent the largest financial transaction of your lifetime, the small fee paid to an attorney is well worth the extra peace of mind.

Attorneys consult and advise, however, and it’s up to you make your own final decisions. Even if a lawyer gives you the best legal counsel in the world, you are the one who has to make a choice of whether or not to follow. Too often, people wait for their lawyer to tell them exactly what to do – which isn’t actually the role or responsibility of an attorney. Ask questions. If you still don’t understand, keep asking.

A good one to ask is “What would you do if you were in my situation?” The idea is to have the kind of conversation with your attorney that illuminates the law, provides with guidance, and points out to you all of your best options while nudging you in the right direction to protect your own best interests.

Homeowner Tips: Make yard maintenance a little easier.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 10:03 am

Most homeowners want to stay out of the July heat, or at least devote their time outdoors to activities like barbecuing, swimming, and sipping cold drinks under a shade tree. But the grass keep growing, sometimes relentlessly, and someone has to get out there and cut it. The weeds pop up, the garden needs to be watered, and the list goes on and on. So here are some tips to help you make summer chores somewhat less labor intensive.

Lawn Mowing
Let’s start with mowing the lawn, since it is probably the most time-consuming of all the regular outdoor maintenance tasks on your list. Before cranking the mower, make sure it’s well serviced. Doing simple things like replacing dirty filters can make your mower run better and last longer, while burning less fuel. Sharpen the mower blades, too, to ensure that they cut confidently and do the job right the first time around. Clean cuts also help grass avoid the kinds of diseases that leave you with the additional hassle of yellow and brown patches in your lawn.

If you’re fighting the hills in your yard, consider investing in a machine like the all-wheel drive” Husqvarna model HU800AWD. The self-propelled mower is specifically designed to tackle steep inclines, and the 22-inch mower is powered by a 190 CC Honda engine. There is even a convenient port built into the mower so you can water-blast the underside clean by simply hooking up a garden hose and starting the engine.

Weed Eating
One of the biggest complaints homeowners have when it comes to weed-eater machines is that the spools of plastic line can be a pain to change. Even on the better machines, where switching out an old spool and popping in a fresh one is a relatively seamless process, it still takes time. When you are spending just as much time fiddling around with spools as you are weed-eating, it’s time to find a new solution.
One of the best and most convenient ways to avoid this hassle is a weed eater like the one manufactured by Echo that doesn’t use spools. Instead you simply insert a length of line into the two slots that hold it, and you’re ready to go again. The system is super fast. You can buy line already cut in lengths of about 12 inches each, or you can save money by buying line by the spool and just cutting it to the desired length yourself with a knife or pair of garden clippers.

Stumps that Won’t Die
But what do you do when you have a stump that keeps growing back with long, green, unsightly shoots? Should you go through labor of trying to grind up the stump or try to dig it out of the ground? That can take up the entire weekend and still leave you with a root system that keeps bouncing back and growing, despite your efforts.
Take a tip from old timers and lumberjacks, who solve this problem with copper nails. Copper will gradually poison the stump. The way to tackle the task is to use the longest copper nails you can find and then drive them into the lowest part of the stump, closest to the ground. Hammer them in a circle to create a band around the circumference of the stump. Leave them there and the trunk with eventually die.

These tips won’t help you avoid yard work, but they may make it a bit more efficient and a lot less frustrating. Meanwhile enjoy your outdoor chores as much as you can, keeping in mind that soon the warm weather will pass and you’ll likely be shoveling snow – which can be a whole lot less fun that manicuring the lawn or picking fresh tomatoes beneath the July sun.