November 15, 2013

Home Inspection Issues and Remedies: When the inspector recommends servicing of a furnace

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 11:47 am

If your home inspector points out the need to have your furnace evaluated, serviced, or repaired, heed the advice and do it before the next time you crank up that heating unit. The inspector probably observed something that could indicate a bigger problem for you later on down the road, or maybe the inspector’s recommendation is because the unit has not been checked-out by a heating professional and it just needs updating to ensure it gets a clean bill of health. Then again, depending upon what the inspector saw, you may have a defective furnace. That can be a threat to your safety and to your home, because serious problems with furnaces can trigger potentially life-threatening outcomes.

What to Do Next
The first thing you should do is communicate with your home inspector. He or she will be able to clarify anything you may not be sure about in the inspection report while answering any specific questions you might have about the section of the report that addresses issues with the furnace. Highly professional inspectors typically provide their clients with reports that include pictures when that is appropriate to highlight exactly what they were looking at when they made their observations. The report will also offer a written description of the situation, either in checklist or narrative form – and some inspectors use a combination of those formats.

After you understand the problem it’s time to call a qualified furnace expert who can make a service call to the residence and evaluate the furnace. They’ll usually check all of its major systems, perform routine maintenance unless you have just recently had that done, and then start the furnace to see for themselves how it functions.

Problems You May Encounter
The furnace expert may find that the unit only needed to have its regular maintenance done to ensure its safety and performance. That may include tasks such as relighting the pilot light on the furnace and checking to make sure that the ductwork is properly installed, insulated, and clear of obstructions. If you have a furnace that is more than 10 or 15 years old, on the other hand, it may be reaching the end of its optimum life cycle. Older furnaces often begin to develop issues that can seem small at first, but they have the potential to become very serious.

A poorly functioning furnace will cost you a great deal because of higher utility bills, since its performance will be compromised. You’ll use it more often and turn the thermostat higher, but will still enjoy less heat inside your home. That translates into wasted energy – which is expensive – while it also impacts your comfort, health, and quality of life. Have it tuned-up or repaired and you’ll be glad you did.

More Serious Issues
One of the components on a furnace that is prone to deterioration is, for example, the heat exchanger. This is a type of barrier between the heat source (such as the flames in a gas furnace) and the fan that blows heated air up through the ducts into your living areas. What often happens over time is that this barrier or heat exchanger – which is made of metal – develops cracks from rust, stress, or age. The cracks can then allow carbon monoxide gas, a natural byproduct of fuel combustion , to escape over into the wrong side of the exchanger. Then it gets blow up into your home whenever you turn on the furnace.

But carbon monoxide or CO is a deadly gas that is both invisible and odorless. Mild exposure to it can cause lethargy and even headaches. Higher levels of the toxic contaminant can cause severe illness with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and cognitive confusion. If you are exposed to CO for too long it is deadly, and every year people die from this silent killer as a result of faulty furnaces. When your furnace gets too old have it repaired or replaced, for the safety and well being of you, your family, and your pets – which are also susceptible to CO poisoning.

Realtors Need to Know the Finance Game

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 11:45 am

Many Realtors fail to understand just how critical it is that they have a keen understanding of mortgage finance, and as a result they let many profitable sales slip between their fingers. No sale is going to happen until the money changes hands, though, so although you may be in the house selling business you also need to know how to help buyers solve their mortgage challenges. That expertise can make the difference between being a frustrated real estate agent and a top producer who attracts well-heeled high-end buying and selling clients.

That doesn’t mean you become a financial advisor or accept payments from mortgage lenders, which is both unethical and illegal. In fact, you should never even let a mortgage lender pick up the tab if the two of you meet over lunch, because that could be interpreted as an illegal kickback. But it does mean that you have the ability to help clients brainstorm when it comes to getting to the closing table and that you can suggest lenders who will get them the funding they require.

The Mortgage Broker Vacuum
One reason this is becoming more critical for buyers and sellers is because the mortgage industry is undergoing some profound changes. Just a few years ago, for example, clients could hire a resourceful mortgage broker to help with all of their financing needs. An experienced broker with a large and reliable lender network can save time and money by finding the best deal with the most attractive terms. Even clients who have special requirements such as jumbo loans, affordable 15-year mortgages, 40-year mortgages, or intelligently structured construction loan packages can get the answers and the money they need with the assistance of a great mortgage broker.

But last year nearly all of the big lenders across the USA shocked the mortgage brokerage industry by withdrawing their business. Lenders including JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup, for example, stopped offering mortgages through brokers and decided to instead process all of their home loans in-house. That not only left many mortgage brokers out of work, but it placed severe limitations on borrowers. When brokers were able to handle loans they could shop around and take full advantage of the competition between banks. But now that major lenders have cut out the middlemen it can be harder to find those outstanding loans with lower fees and attractive rates.

The Value of Lending Networks and Relationships
How does this development impact Realtors or buyers and sellers hiring a real estate professional? If you are knowledgeable about the banking industry and stay fully informed and updated about mortgage products and rates, you are in a better position to assist buyers who may not know where to look for a loan. That’s good for everybody – a three-way win.

Not all loan officers are created alike, either, and if you are able to put your buyers in touch with the best – instead of relying on new, less experienced people to process their loans – that can facilitate the process. How many times has an incompetent lender dropped the ball and forgotten a document, for instance, only to have the underwriters pull the plug right before closing? Although those kinds of issues may be completely out of your control as the real estate agent, the homeowner or buyer may lay the blame at your feet – which can do considerable damage to your reputation and brand.
Meanwhile many affluent buyers are better served by using a discriminating private lender. Private lenders can expedite the process and close deals fasters, for example, if you have an investor interested in a property listing when time is of the essence. Sometimes buyers have credit problems, too, despite the fact that they have highly valuable assets and lots of cash liquidity. While a bank may be reluctant to lend to them, most private lenders could care less about the borrower’s credit rating. They just want to see a strong appraisal and a robust down payment. But if your buyers don’t know where to go to find these kinds of lenders then you might lose a lucrative sale.

Expand your network and cultivate valuable working relationships with bankers, mortgage companies, and private lenders and investors. Consider that an integral part of the Realtor skill set. Then leverage that know-how and experience to everyone’s advantage for buyers, sellers, and their real estate agents.

November Homeowner Tips: Prepping your home for winter.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 11:41 am

We’re enjoying fall weather, but homeowners need to be aware that wintertime is almost here and the time to get ready for it is now. If you wait until confirmation that winter has really arrived it might surprise you by showing up in the form of a sudden snowstorm, ice storm, or unexpectedly frigid sub-freezing temperatures. By then it will be too late to plan ahead because you’ll already have missed the deadline for preparation.

Another reason why it’s wise to go ahead and jump on these seasonal home maintenance chores immediately is that if you wait just a few weeks longer it will be the holidays. Nobody wants to interrupt family gatherings and fun festivities to go strap on a tool belt, climb a ladder, or start stacking firewood and gassing up the snow blower.
To help you get motivated, here are some ideas for where to put your energy this month in terms of readying your home for winter:

Work from the Outside-In
Walk your property and take a close look at any large trees in your yard. Do you see any evidence of diseased or rotten limbs? Those could become liabilities when the snow falls, so have them safely removed and have trees treated for any diseases now, before it’s too late.

Now’s the time to start adding mulch to your flowerbeds, too, so that they look attractive even when they don’t have any plants blooming in them. A good mulching will also protect your perennials so that they are healthy next year. Speaking of those, it’s your last chance to get bulbs like tulips and daffodils in the ground, too, so buy those right away and give them a good head start by planting them before the ground is frozen hard.
Once it gets cold enough put away the grill, the patio furniture, and the lawn darts and volleyball net. If you have an outdoor kitchen, swimming pool, or a water feature like a fountain you’ll also want to make sure those are ready for cold weather. Now’s the time to test out your winter tools, too, so make sure your snow shovel is in good shape and begin stocking up on deicers like rock salt – for both your home and each of your automobiles.

Insulation Pays You Back
You’re heard it before, and it bears repeating. The more you insulate the more money you’ll save on heating bills this winter. Think of all the ways you can use a little extra cash during the holidays or to fend off the post-holiday doldrums or help you pay those taxes in the new year.

Then caulk, weather strip, and refresh the rolled insulation in your attic. Make sure the basement is snug and dry by fixing cracked windowpanes, putting a blanket on the water heater, or wrapping the pipes. For extra protection and savings install those plastic window covers in your house – the ones that are tightened by warming them with a hair dryer. They are practically invisible when installed correctly and for a few dollars per window you can save hundreds on your energy bills.

Check Your Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors
During the upcoming holidays everyone across North America will inadvertently bring a few hazards into their homes, and that will inevitably result in more fires. Every year around this time people have accidents and emergencies because of everything from old nostalgic strings of faulty Christmas lights to unattended holiday candles or deep-fried turkeys that were not quite thawed out correctly.
Accidents happen, but you can at least be prepared by making sure your smoke alarms have new batteries and you have plenty of charged-up fire extinguishers on hand. Make sure the extinguishers are properly rated, too, because using one meant for paper fires or a gasoline fire may not work. Be sure everyone in your home knows how to use them, too, and while you’re at it double check your emergency medical kit and refresh your CPA and first responder skills.