March 16, 2014

Home Inspection Reports: Gas line safety issues and how to deal with them.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 1:27 pm

If you have a home inspection performed either as a buyer or a seller who is doing a pre-sale inspection and the inspector recommends investigation of your gas lines in the report, heed that recommendation.

The Potential Danger
Natural gas, while convenient and common, is also potentially dangerous because it is highly volatile. Every few months, somewhere in North America, a gas line is ruptured either by accident or because of some other destructive event and it causes a horrific explosion. In February of 2014 a natural gas explosion in Kentucky destroyed homes, barns, vehicles, and left a crater in the ground that is six stories deep. That was a large pipeline, but even a small household gas line can leak enough of the invisible fuel to blow a house sky-high.

Causes for Inspection Recommendations
A home inspector may make a note, for example if the gas meter and the regulator valve which is connected to it is in a location that is not up to code. The regulator may leak gas fumes into the air, which is its purpose when too much pressure has built up inside the device. If it is located near a window or vent, that gas could be carried back into the house. A gas line inside the home, like those running to or from an appliance, may be improperly installed. In some cases an appliance has been relocated, but the gas line that remains behind is not properly secured and capped to prevent accidental discharge of gas into the room.

Another common oversight is that gas stoves do not have “anti-tipping” features on them, so that if the oven door is opened the stove could fall forward. That could injure someone, for instance, or rip away an active gas line. Sometimes gas appliances are not adequately vented, or lines running from them that generate heat are not sufficiently insulated. Particularly in older homes, the gas lines may not be made of the right kind of material, and even in newer homes a copper gas line may not be labeled in a way to identify it. You certainly don’t want to have a “live” gas line in your home that is mistaken for a water line or sheath around electrical wires, because someone doing a repair might accidentally cut or break it.

What to Do Next
Whatever the cause for concern may be, your home inspector will recommend that the homeowner call a qualified professional to do a closer investigation. It is important to note that working with gas lines and appliances is highly specialized work that requires specific kinds of training and adherence to strict safety protocols. So you will likely need to contact the gas utility company and have them come to your home, or it could be an issue that can be examined and addressed by an HVAC professional.

Once that person has studied the situation they will make their own recommendations for any repairs, upgrades, or adjustments that they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the home and the proper functioning of your gas appliances. Once those are completed and they have given your home a clean bill of health you can rest easy, knowing that the potential hazard has been remedied.

Real Estate Marketing Tips for Managing Your digital Brand

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 1:26 pm

These days most real estate professionals have a presence online, either through a website, various social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or across a mix of digital platforms. For some the effort to promote themselves is highly rewarding, and it translates into increased sales and listings. But unfortunately, for the majority of real estate agents and brokers, the time and energy they spend sharing information over the Internet is not a high-yield investment. They feel that they need to devote themselves to this kind of marketing, because everyone else is busy doing it, but the results don’t justify the effort. They are simply spinning their wheels without seeing tangible conversions of lukewarm leads into paying clients.

Here are 3 tips that can help move that marketing effort from cyberspace into the real world of increased sales:

Define Your Unique Brand Value
Branding can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it all comes down to how you want to be thought of and remembered by others. To distinguish yourself, build your brand around a particular quality or skill that your clients value. Maybe you’re a local who knows the neighborhoods better than other Realtors. Perhaps you have a flair for finding good investment properties or you have strong contacts in the mortgage industry to fund complicated transactions. If negotiating skills are your forte’ then you may want to make that the centerpiece of your brand. Discover what makes you tick, where your passion lies, and align that with marketable traits. Then you’ll have a one-of-a-kind brand that stands out from the crowd.

Be Consistent Across All Platforms
To make that brand memorable, be sure to keep your marketing messages consistent and steady across all platforms. If you emphasize your value as a sales agent on Facebook but only talk about your investment experience on Twitter, some of your contacts will only receive half of the message. Similarly, you want to use similar photos, tag lines, fonts, and other brand and image elements whenever and wherever you advertise. Otherwise if you have one photo on your Facebook page and another on your yard sign then people may not recognize your brand identity the way you want them to. Think of how major brands like Nike or Apple manage those details and employ the same strategies yourself.

Convert Online Contacts to Offline Partnerships
The single biggest mistake that real estate pros make when doing digital marketing is that they fail to transform those online connections into real life clients. It is easy to spend hours a day chatting online and sharing information with people in a virtual world, but that doesn’t pay the bills.

The key is to establish a good rapport on those social network platforms and then quickly convert that into a face-to-face meeting. Ask them to meet you for coffee, for example, or you can also create special value-add that inspires people to meet you in person. You might host a seminar on how to create curb appeal, the pros and cons of do-it-yourself home selling, or the mortgage application and home buying process. Offer yourself as a public speaker and expert on real estate and then book engagements at local business associations, clubs, or schools. If you have contacts online who are involved in charity work, offer to volunteer. That creates a great opportunity to interact in person, and it also highlights your commitment to giving back to the community.

Homeowner Tips: Three skills you need in an emergency.

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

Home sales are rising across the continent, and with springtime on the near horizon it’s just a matter of weeks before the home buying season will kick into high gear. If you’re thinking of becoming a homeowner, there are a handful of skills you’ll want to acquire beforehand. These might save your home – and the health and well being of your family members – in the event of an emergency. Even if there is not a serious threat to your safety, these are still great things to know how to do, because they can save you money, time, and further aggravation when the need arises.

1. Throw the Main Circuit Breaker
Sure, most homeowners know where to find the circuit breaker box. Many of those folks also know which one of the many switches inside the unit is the big main breaker, and they know that if they flip that one it will cut off the electricity to their whole house. That’s great, and if you don’t know this information already then consult your home inspector or electrician to learn this valuable or potentially vital knowledge. But while homeowners may know about circuit breakers, too many of them do not take the time and make the effort to teach this lesson to their children. If a kid is tall enough to reach the circuit breaker box, she or he may be old enough to learn how to work it – and that basic knowledge could be invaluable in the event of an emergency.

2. Shut Off the Water Supply
A burst pipe can mean a sloppy clean-up and some aggravation. Or if you do not know how to cut off the water supply it could continue until your home is flooded and the damage is both extensive and expensive. Turning off the water is easy. You can virtually do it with a flip of the wrist. But you have to first know where to located the turn-off value and then have the right tool to get the job done fast. There will typically be one valve inside or right outside your home, which is often located in a basement near your water heater. Another – which requires a specially designed tool – can usually be found at the street where it connects to the municipal water lines. If you have your own private well, the valve will be near the pump that draws water into your home and will probably also be in close proximity to your water heater. Talk to a home inspector or plumbing contractor. Have them point out the shut-off value and show you how to operate it. Then put a tag on it – similar to a luggage tag – that is a bright color easily spotted. That way if you find yourself with a broken water line you can find the valve fast and prevent the incident from getting worse.

3. Operate a Fire Extinguisher
You may be shocked and disturbed to learn than every year many people found dead in house fires have their fire extinguishers in their hands. Although they knew to grab the extinguisher, they failed to unlock it by simply pulling out the little pin that locks the trigger to prevent accidental deployment. Every homeowner should not only own fully-charged and properly rated fire extinguishers, but they should also practice with them so that they can use them quickly and correctly – even when under extreme duress when seconds count. Train yourself and everyone – including your children – who lives in your house.