October 15, 2013

Home Inspection Issues and Remedies: When the inspector finds evidence of lead paint.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 11:31 am

Everyone knows that the heavy metal lead is highly toxic, even if you only get it on your skin. Of course ingesting it is even worse, and very small children unfortunately have a tendency to put everything in their mouths – even lead paint chips. Exposing a small person like an infant, for example, to lead increases the proportion of toxicity, too, since their body is so small that any amount of poison inside it will have a magnified negative impact.

The standard home buyer inspection is not meant to be an invasive inspection, but is instead a general inspection of the structural and mechanical components and systems of the home. Should that inspection reveal something that warrants further study, then the inspector will mention that in the written report.
That’s why when a home inspector detects signs of lead-based paint it is important that you heed the warnings and recommendations. How do you do that? The next step is for you to contact a qualified and trained environmental inspector who specializes in identifying toxic hazards such as lead paint.

The identification process is critical, because it is a form of diagnosis. Just as your physician will check out the external symptoms you have to determine the underlying cause – and see if you have a mild condition or a serious disease – the environmental inspector will do the same for your home. The general inspector may have spotted the telltale signs of think paint under the surface peeling and curling, for example, which is how lead paint often reacts. Because the top coats of paint that were put on later – after lead paint was made illegal, for instance – are made of incompatible chemical ingredients they don’t adhere properly. So over time the paint peels and curls.

But does that mean there is lead present? Only a more scientific test will tell, because sometimes paint peels because of exposure to UV rays or because someone put oil paint over latex or vice-versa. The environmental inspector knows how to test the paint, and will remove a chip and either test it on site or send it to a laboratory. If the results confirm that there is no lead in your paint, then you probably just need to repaint that section of the house – or if it’s extensive the whole home may need a paint job. The cost and work needed to remedy the problem is something you can negotiate between the buyer and the seller.

If the paint does test positive for lead, however, then you have an environmentally sensitive and potentially very expensive project on your hands. The lead paint – which may be covered by many other layers of more recent paint – has to be completely removed. But you cannot simply sand it off; you must also capture all of that removed paint and dispose of it according to strict environmental laws. Otherwise if you let the paint dust and chips fall to the ground they can contaminate the dirt around your home – which just shifts the problem to another location.

In most cases the buyer will not want to incur this kind of responsibility and major project. The homeowner will need to work with local municipal building inspectors and have a team of qualified hazardous material removers come and scrape off the old lead paint and dispose of it. Then they can repaint the affected area with safe, proper paint. Afterwards a follow-up inspection should be done – including testing, if necessary – to make sure that all the troublesome lead is gone and that the home is safe from contamination.

Tips for Selling Homes Off Season

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 11:30 am

Autumn is here already, and many homeowners find themselves heading into the slowest season for real estate while still trying to market and sell their homes. The colder the temperatures get, the more people tend to bundle up and hibernate instead of going outside. That translates into fewer buyers who are willing to brave the cold to go out shopping for houses. From now until next spring, in most regions of North America, real estate sales will slow to a crawl. That presents some special difficulties, so here are some tips to help you make the most of it and hopefully overcome the challenges of trying to sell during the colder months of the year.

Revisit Your Pricing
One of the primary reasons that homes languish on the market longer than expected is because the pricing is not in line with current buyer expectations. No matter what value you put on your property or how much you may owe on the mortgage, the housing market has a mind of its own. What constitutes a fair price will always depend upon the current median sales prices for homes comparable to yours in your region.

With the help of a Realtor, gather information related to sales within the last 2-3 months and compare those final sales prices to the price you’re asking. Also study “time on the market” statistics that reveal how many days each sold home was listed before it finally sold. Use that objective data to help you determine whether or not your home’s price is competitive.
Lowering the price can cut into your potential profits. But continuing to pay the taxes, insurance, utilities, and upkeep on a home for another six months is also costly. So factor those expenses into the equation. It may be cheaper to offer a price concession to an interested buyer now in order to facilitate a fast sale that to hold out for a higher price only to incur unwanted home maintenance expenses between now and next spring.

Stage the Home
Buyers are heavily influenced by first impressions, and if your home does not look its best when they tour it that can torpedo the chances of them returning for a second visit to make an offer. Staging a home – the real estate professional terminology for setting it up so that it shows like a model home – is definitely a value-adding procedure that can help market your home or even convince buyers to offer more for it.

The basis way to stage the home is remove as much clutter as possible and decorate it to highlight its features. The reason for that is twofold. First of all homes that are tidy look better and convey an important sense that the homeowner take pride of ownership seriously. Meanwhile an untidy home may lead buyers to suspect that you also don’t stay on top of routine maintenance – which could mean that the home is in a state of disrepair or has hidden flaws that could be expensive to fix.

The other option is to a hire a professional stager. These folks are usually knowledgeable about real estate marketing as well as interior decoration, and they will have an inventory of new or like-new furnishing to help spruce up even the most dated and tired looking property. Stagers are typically used by home builders, for example, to furnish and decorate their model homes.

Make Vacant Property More Inviting
Vacant properties present their own challenges, because empty buildings lack the ambience and appeal of a home, sweet home. Professional staging can really help when you’re trying to sell vacant property, because empty homes tend to look cold and uninviting – especially in frigid weather. Adding tasteful decor makes the home look warm, livable, and adds the kind of charm that can attract a buyer.

Whether you furnish the vacant home or not, you should consider leaving the utilities on through the cold months. For one thing the days are shorter this time of year, which means that buyers may come to tour the home and find that it is too dark inside the home to really see it. Nobody wants to stand around in an ice cold house, either, but if you have the utilities on the Realtor can turn on the lights and crank up the heat before showing the house. Leaving the heat on around 50 degrees or so can also help to prevent problems like frozen pipes. Just make sure that before real estate agents leave the house they turn the heat back down – otherwise you will wind up paying to keep it nice and toasty at 70 degrees, which is a total waste of energy and cash.

Home Maintenance Tips: How to plant a healthy tree.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:28 am

There are two times a year that are most conducive for planting a tree, spring and fall. Autumn is here, and that means that this is an ideal time to plant those trees you’ve been meaning to add to your landscape. Investing in trees is a great idea, and can add value to your property in a variety ways.

Shade trees properly situated near your home, for example, can reduce the amount of heat that scorches your house during the summer months – and that can, in turn, reduce your air conditioning bills. Fruit trees can add edible beauty; flowering trees can boost your home’s curb appeal, and any kind of healthy and handsome tree can contribute significantly to your property’s market appeal if you decide to sell.

Before you go out to shop for a tree, however, it is important that you know what steps to avoid when planting. Otherwise your tree investment could get sick or die on you. Sure, you can trust the whole procedure to the delivery people who work at your local garden center. But sometimes they make mistakes, too, especially if they are more adept at lifting heavy trees and digging big holes than they are at understanding the subtleties involved in ensuring the vibrant health and well being of trees.

Here are some important expert tips:
• Even if the tree comes from the nursery already potted, remove enough dirt around the base of the trunk to clear it off down to the “collar” – the section of the tree where the trunk merges into the root ball.

• Don’t plant the root ball too deep. You should ensure that the collar described above has about one inch of clearance above the soil.

• Nurseries used to recommend adding a compost and fertilizer-rich soil around the root ball. But that’s an obsolete concept. Nowadays research shows that it is better to just use good soil with no extra additives, because that will encourage the roots to grow out and down in search of nutrients and minerals.

• When you have the tree planted, you should mulch the area around it in a large, wide circle. Try attempt to pile the mulch deep, though – instead going for a wide and shallow spread.
• Watering can be tricky, and it all depends on variables such as the weather, the humidity, and the kind of soil you have. But a good gauge is to push your finger into the dirt about three inches. The dirt at that depth should be moist but not saturated and wet. Overwatering can harm a tree just as much as not watering enough, too, so pay attention – especially during that first critical month or two.

Be sure to select trees that will flatter the landscape, be low-maintenance, and thrive in your particular region. That’s why consulting the nursery experts really helps. Planting a walnut near flowerbed or a vegetable garden, for example, can poison the flower and veggie plants because walnuts give off toxins to protect their root systems. Similarly, planting a mulberry near your patio or deck can create unwanted mess. If you plant a big tree like an oak, make sure you have tons of space above it – otherwise it might grow into your overhead utility lines.

You definitely do not want the hazard of limbs hanging over your roof or your neighbor’s car and driveway, either. The roots of trees can also cause catastrophic problems if they begin to force themselves up underneath your home’s foundation, too, and they can do considerable damage to walkways, driveways, and other patios. So before you pick out a tree be sure to think years ahead and envision what that tree will look like and what space it will occupy.