April 15, 2014

Home Inspection Issues: How to respond to reports that lead paint may be present.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 4:42 pm

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it is important to understand that the professional who inspects your home is not finding problems or potential issues because of anything personal. To the contrary, they are doing the job they were hired to do, which is to help report on the home in a way that will ensure your safety, comfort, satisfaction, and even your freedom from potential liability. That’s why one of the factors that an inspector may be on the lookout for is environmental hazards, including one of the most common of all – namely lead paint.

Understanding the Scope of the Inspection
A general home inspector is usually not qualified or even hired to make definitive recommendations regarding environmental issues, however, because that is a highly specialized field. Environmental inspectors have extensive training in that area, and if you suspect an environmental threat like lead paint, asbestos, or radon gas you will need to hire that particular kind of inspector. The person who does a buyer ordered inspection or a pre-listing inspection paid for by the seller will draw attention to suspected lead paint if the symptoms are obvious. Let’s say, for example, that a section of exterior paint is curled up and chipping away. An inspector may highlight that fact in the report, without overstepping his or her authority to try and diagnose the root cause of that curled paint. They may say, for instance, that it should be checked out and investigated further by someone with that kind of expertise.

What to Do Next
Don’t be alarmed or panic, just hire a qualified environmental inspector and let them do their job and let you know what they find. In some cases it may not be lead paint that caused those symptoms. It may be that two types of incompatible paint were used on top of each other, and when the bottom layer began to shrink it caused the layer on top to curl away. That’s no big deal and can be remedied by a new paint job to repair the affected area. Similarly, harsh sunlight can also cause paint to chip, warp, and peel. While overexposure to UV rays from the sun can have adverse effects on your health over time, that is not a property issue with the home and once again, it simply means that the house needs new paint.

So if the environment expert gives the home a clean bill of health and after testing realized that the paint is not lead-based, the next step is easy. Call some paint contractors, solicit competitive bids, and negotiate between the buyer and seller to figure out who will pay for the necessary painting project. Then to ensure that everything was done satisfactorily you may want to ask the original home inspector to return and do a follow up inspection of the paint job to make sure it was done right.

If Lead Paint is Present
On the other hand, if lead is found in the paint on the house, that does create a bigger challenge. The contaminated paint will need to be safely removed and disposed of, which can be a complicated task. You cannot just sand it off, for instance, and let the ground-up paint fall on the ground because the lead may then seep into the soil and groundwater. In this scenario you will need to hire a lead paint removal contractor with a good reputation and have them get rid of all lead-based paint before the house is then repainted with “healthy” paint.

In that situation you will want to first have the environmental inspector return for a follow-up inspection, and he or she should retest the area to confirm that there is no environmental threat present. Then after the normal painting project is completed you may want to invite the general home inspector for a conclusive follow-up report.

3 Ways to Sell More Listings

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 4:41 pm

Many real estate agents see acquiring listings as their main business goal, but that kind of shortsighted outlook can leave you and your homeowner clients frustrated. Listings don’t pay the bills, and they don’t get the results at the closing table that sellers expect. So if you want to ratchet up your success during the historically robust listing season of springtime, you need to focus not just on getting listings but also effectively marketing them.

That leads to another pitfall that too many real estate professionals are vulnerable to. They think that marketing the home is solely their responsibility, since they are the one hired to facilitate the sale. But in reality the marketing of residential real estate is a team process that also depends upon the willingness and participation of the homeowner. If you want to have the best of both worlds – and satisfy your sellers while also earning a more reliable paycheck – pay close attention to these three tips for increasing not just listing but actual sales.

#1 Don’t Work with Unrealistic Sellers
Face it, selling houses is a freelance gig. If you don’t put in the hours nobody else is there to take up the slack and make sure you earn a commission. Time is money in a serious way, and wasting time is one of the biggest reasons why real estate agents fail. But those who manage their time wisely succeed, which is why you should not get trapped into working for sellers who have unrealistic expectations. You know the ones. They want to price themselves way above the competition and make a fortune, even in a buyer’s market. They are never flexible about scheduling showings, and they don’t want to negotiate the small stuff or make any concessions, even the most reasonable ones.

If you lock yourself into a working relationship with one or more of these homeowners it can mean a listing that never sells. Worse still, it sucks up your time and energy so that you cannot devote yourself to working with really great clients. Soon even your best clients complain that you are spreading yourself too thin, and that’s a red flag announcing that your career is in jeopardy. Don’t be attached to getting the listing at the risk of inheriting an impossible client relationship. It is okay to refer some of them to another Realtor. Be selective, because your success is determined by the company you keep – and that includes clients who are willing to price their home intelligently and do what it takes to get them sold.

#2 Emphasize Interior Staging
Nothing is more off-putting than a house that does not show well. Even if one potential buyer has the imagination and tolerance to see beyond the clutter and dinginess, the real estate agent working with them may be so turned-off that they don’t show it to their other clients. Worse still, word may spread in the real estate community that the inside of the home is a disappointment. Next thing you know, the phone stops ringing and the buzz around the new listing dies.

To avoid that scenario discuss staging with the sellers early in the process, even before the listing goes into the MLS system. They should pack up and store unnecessary furniture and belongings out of sight. If the rooms are dark and uninviting, an inexpensive coat of paint and new light fixtures will cure that problem. Carpet can be cleaned and wood floors waxed for a dramatically improved look. Then the home will showcase itself, making your job that much easier. If you don’t know how to make the most of what the interior has to offer, don’t fret. Just take an introductory class in interior decorating at your local community college or team-up with an affordable but talented home staging company. The money spend by homeowners to stage a home is almost always recouped in a higher sales price.

#3 Promote Eye-Catching Curb Appeal
Buyers may come from yard signs, but don’t kid yourself. It is not your yard sign that inspires someone driving past a home to pick up the phone and call. In all likelihood the only reason they even noticed the yard sign was because they were first attracted by the curb appeal of the property. Encourage your sellers to do their part to ensure fantastic curb appeal that helps the home stand out from all the competition. They don’t have to invest a lot of money and hire a landscape architect, either, because cosmetic curb appeal usually comes rather easily and cheaply.

They should keep the yard manicured, plant from fresh and colorful flowers, and make the flowerbeds stand out with new mulch. That is usually a do-it-yourself project that anyone can accomplish in a weekend. Clean up the clutter in the yard, make sure the front porch light and the doorbell work, and if the door looks shabby give it a fresh coat of paint or varnish. The investment may be nominal, but the payback should be phenomenal by generating lots of interest from both buyers and their brokers that, in turn, accelerates the sale of the property.

Homeowner Tips: Spring Cleaning for Homeowners

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 4:39 pm

The winter continued to linger longer than usual across most parts of North America, but warmer weather is finally settling in – making it easier to do major house cleaning projects. A good spring cleaning after being rather cooped-up all winter can create a refreshing change and be a great opportunity to de-clutter, get rid of the old, and usher in the new season. But spring cleaning is also important for basic home maintenance, and below are a few of the easy cleaning projects that should be on every homeowner’s list of to-do projects every April.

#1 Clear Plumbing Drains
Most homeowners don’t even think about the drains in their bathroom sinks, tubs, and showers until a problem arises and those drains stop working correctly. But it is a good idea to clean those out on a routine basis. That way you will prevent problems from every occurring in the first place and your drains will work faster. You will also likely preempt most major issues related to clogging that can create worse problems.

The simplest way to clean the drains is with a long, skinny wire brush that can be found at your local home improvement store. Snake it into the drain and you will probably be shocked by how much hair and gunk you retrieve. Once you have completed that job you can run some drain cleaner down the pipes to finish off the cleaning. Just be sure to handle any caustic drain cleaners with great care because some of the them contain potent chemicals that can be harmful to your health.

#2 Clean Refrigerator Coils
There are condenser coils that help to cool for refrigerator, and when these are blocked by dust and lint it acts like a blanket on the coils and cuts down on the efficiency and longevity of the unit. This task is especially important for anyone who has indoor pets, because the coils tend to become extra clogged when dog hair or cat fur is in the atmosphere. Normally the coils are located on the floor behind a removable panel that runs the length of the unit right below the refrigerator door.
Pop off that cover and you’ll have easy access to the dirty coils. (In some cases the coils may be located at the back, and if you consult the owner’s manual for the refrigerator it will tell you where they are.) For this project you’ll need a coil brush and a shop vacuum or other powerful vacuum, both of which can be purchased at any home improvement store.

#3 Check and Clean the Gutters
During the colder months leaves aren’t shedding leaves, but that does not mean that gutters will be clean when winter ends. They are likely filled with debris such as small twigs and branches that act as filters to trap leaves and particles of dirt blowing in the wind. Soon they can be completely clogged with muck – just in time for April showers.
That could render them ineffective and all that spring rain might wind up damaging your home as it is diverted where it should not go instead of flowing down the drainpipe. Give your gutter system a good spring cleaning, however, and you can prevent some of the bigger and messier home repairs before they happen.

#4 Clean the Exterior Dryer Vent
Every few months the dryer vent on the outside of your house may also get clogged-up with lint. Spring is a good time to check it by locating the vent on the exterior wall. It is usually a white plastic square with moveable shutters built into it, and if the dry is operating you will see those shutters flapping as the air blows across them.

Clean the lint trap in the clothes dryer every time you dry a load of clothes. Just slide it out, remove the lint, and replace it before turning on the machine. You should make this a ritual and teach it to your children when you instruct them how to do their own laundry. Cleaning the lint trap should be a step that is seen as just as essential as adding detergent to the clothes washer.