June 15, 2014

Home Inspections: Issues with Central A/C Units

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 8:56 am

The central air conditioning unit is one of the more significant systems that a home inspector will check when doing a buyer-ordered inspection or one ordered by a homeowner prior to listing. Sometimes during this kind of general and visual inspection the inspector will see telltale signs of potential problems or other evidence that indicates the need for a closer look. When that’s the case the inspector will likely explain the findings while also recommending that an air conditioning or HVAC contractor do a more thorough examination to determine whether or not repairs are warranted. That’s when the homeowner should call a qualified and experienced expert who is a central air conditioning specialist.

Issues Related to Capacity
Using the inspection report as a guide, the contractor will then check out the unit to see if it is functionally properly and has adequate cooling capacity for the size of the home. Sometimes people who own homes do a remodel, for instance, and add additional rooms and square footage. But they don’t bother to upgrade the air conditioner at the same time. That can often mean that their original unit is no longer powerful enough to cool the new, larger space. In that case the contractor and the inspector may agree that a higher capacity unit is needed. That could become a big financial challenge, because units typically range from $1,500 to more than $3,000. So it is imperative to heed the inspector’s suggestions and have the system properly evaluated.

Wiring and Installation Problems
Other issues that may arise include improper or unsafe wiring from the central air unit, or a lack of proper support beneath it. Unless the unit sits on top of a slightly elevated concrete pad that was properly installed, for instance, the unit itself could come in contact with the ground. That could cause rusting or, in wet weather, could allow water to seep into the unit from underneath and do other damage. If there is no fuse for the circuit breaker to interrupt the A/C unit in the event of an overload, that is a red flag that the unit was not properly inspected when it was installed. The owner may have failed to get a building permit, for instance, so the unit may not be up to code and a contractor will be needed to remedy that situation. Sometimes ductwork on forced-air systems like HVAC units may also be improperly designed or installed, which will interrupt or compromise air flow throughout the home. That’s another problem that a qualified contractor can alleviate to give you a more balanced system for greater comfort and energy efficiency.

Routine Scheduled Maintenance
Oftentimes the problem is much easier to address, however, because the unit could just need some routine maintenance. A contractor may find, for instance, that a capacitor in the unit has gotten old and needs to be replaced. The job is a simple one that doesn’t cost much, because a new capacitor only costs about $30. But degraded capacitors can but an extra workload on critical components of the system like the condenser fan’s motor and the compressor – eventually resulting in more serious and costly problems. Another component, the contactor relay switch, also costs about $30 but if it wears out the unit could fail. Likewise the fan motor should be replaced when it has passed its useful life. So it could be that when the inspection report recommends maintenance on the unit that will be an easy procedure that will, in fact, increase the longevity of your air conditioning unit and thus enhance your home’s value.

Following Up After a Closer Analysis
As with any potential repair that involves spending money, the buyer and seller will want to negotiate the cost. The seller will usually either pay cash at closing or reduce the sales price to help accommodate the expense of doing the repair or replacement. You won’t know what kind of money is involved, if any, until you first have an HVAC contractor study the situation. Then you can get 2-4 competing bids to figure out your actual costs. If you do need repairs or upgrades, it is always a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up visit to look over the work and give it a clean bill of health or make further recommendations as needed.

Real Estate Tips: Make your next open house more productive

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 8:55 am

Spring and summer are great seasons for hosting open houses at your real estate listings, but for many agents and brokers they don’t seem to generate enough quality business. The key is to strategize how to make each open house more productive, and to use it as an opportunity to generate new client leads for potential buyers and sellers. Here are some ideas to help make that happen as you prepare for you next open house.

Host a “Realtors Only” Open House
While open houses for the general public can be quite useful for attracting new clients, you cannot really control who walks through the door. Sometimes it’s a buyer interested in the home you have listed or a seller from down the street who wants to hire an enthusiastic Realtor. Then again, you may have a slow day that mostly attracts people who are window-shopping and aren’t quite ready to commit. But if you have an open house exclusively for other real estate professionals you are guaranteed to get people who are keenly interested in finding a hot property for their own serious buyers. That’s why holding that kind of open house is almost always a value-adding idea that is well worth the time and effort.

The best time to host one is on a day when other brokerage firms have their weekly sales meetings. Find out when that is, and then invite all of them to stop by your listing after the meeting. If you can offer free lunch that’s another surefire way to attract Realtors, and a good way to do that is to partner with a local sandwich shop that is also trying to attract new business. That kind of eatery will often be willing to cater the event at a very affordable cost – or even for free – in order to participate in your high-profile open house.

Invite a Lending Partner to Participate
For open houses open to the general public it’s actually a good idea to skip the food and drinks, because those only add to the cost of holding the event and don’t really attract more qualified leads. If the people in attendance (who may very well include playfully active children prone to accidents) spill something that stains the furniture that could accelerate your expenses considerably. But what can help you to make a sale and generate more potential clients is if you bring along a mortgage loan professional.

They can set up a desk at the kitchen table and advise people who attend the open house on their purchase finance options. That not only helps you to prequalify your buyers, but it also allows you to spend your time focusing on showing the home – rather than getting bogged-down answering mortgage questions. The lender who participates can also help out by splitting the cost of hosting the open house. It’s valuable to them, because they don’t have any listings for sale that can serve as a venue for interacting with the public. By giving them that marketing platform you’re doing them a big favor – so it’s a win-win for both of you.

Don’t Compete with Other Big Events
Keep in mind that just as location is everything in the real estate business, timing is everything when you are planning an event – which is what an open house really is. Study the local calendar ahead of time, for example, to ensure that you don’t have your open house on the same day that some other competing event like a neighborhood bike race or children’s carnival is going to be preoccupying people who are in your target market.

On the other hand, some events and attractions can help you get more people in the door. If you live in a tourist town, for instance, hosting the event at the beginning or end of a weekend when lots of out-of-towners are expected to flock into the city could provide you with a chance to meet lots of potential buyers who are considering making a move or doing a job transfer.

Homeowner Tips for Controlling Poison Ivy

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 8:53 am

This time of year poison ivy vines are beginning to proliferate in yard all over the place, just in time for the season when both adults and children love to enjoy themselves outside. These undesirable plants have the potential to cause rashes and blisters, and the symptoms can range from itchy and annoying to quite serious outbreaks that require medical attention.

Understanding Poison Ivy
• Those who work outside usually memorize the mantra “Leaves of three, beware of me!” That’s because the compound leaves of poison ivy consist of three pointed leaflets, including a longer one in the center.

• All parts of poison ivy are poisonous, all year ‘round, because of the presence of rash-inducing urushiol oil. Controlling contact with the oil is the key to avoiding a poison ivy rash, and the oil can be carried by anything that brushes against the plant – including your pets.

• If you do contact poison ivy, wash the exposed skin with soap and water. The oil from poison ivy can remain active on clothing, so wash your clothes, too.

• One way that people often inadvertently experience a run-in with poison ivy, despite being on the lookout for those telltale clumps of three leaves, is by contacting fuzzy vines that mature poison ivy plants create on the trunks of trees.

• You may, for example, see a vine that looks like brown, scruffy or furry rope winding around a tree. Don’t handle it, because that might be poison ivy. The same goes for any furry vine you discover that is attached to a chunk of firewood.

• Burning a poison ivy vine can cause toxic smoke which has the potential to create terrific problem if it drifts into your eyes or is inhaled. Plenty of people who mistakenly used that kind of fuel in a campfire would up hospitalized, so beware and never gather that kind of suspicious looking wood or use it to stoke a fire.

Identifying Poison Ivy
The first challenge is to identify these plants, and that is often easier said than done. There is a common vine known as Virginia Creeper, for example, that can be quite difficult to distinguish from poison ivy. Although Virginia Creeper can some rather invasive and somewhat bothersome, it is harmless – whereas its lookalike plant, poison ivy, can really conspire to ruin your summer.
It is highly recommended, therefore, to consult realistic photos of poison ivy that you can compare to the plants in your yard. Better still, have a professional landscaper or a botanist from your local nursery point out active poison ivy. Even if you have to hire them to consult with you on your property for an hour or so to help you identify poison ivy that may be growing there, it may be well worth it. They can also ID other harmful plants such as poison oak and recommend methods for controlling and eliminating those unwanted specimens. Have you had tree work done recently? Most tree specialists are also good at identifying poison ivy so they can be another helpful resource.

Strike Early and Often
The key to control and eradication is to nip the growth of poisonous plants early, before they have time to expand their territory. In regions where the winter lasted a little longer and springtime came late, there is still a great opportunity to attack poisonous plants before they are fully established. If you use a spray to kill them when they are young and the leaves are still small and tender it can wipe out the crop before it ever gains a foothold.

But be careful not to spray when or where children or pets are present, because these weed-killing chemicals can be extremely hazardous. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions, use protective gloves and eyewear, and when it doubt hire a professional who is skilled and knowledgeable. It is best to spray on a hot, sunny day. If you spray and then a rainstorm comes, for instance, it will simply wash away the spray and might wash it into your flower beds or garden. That’s the other precaution. Never let the chemicals used to kill weeds like poison ivy get near your desirable plants or it will kill them, too.

Never Mow Poison Ivy
Above all, don’t make the mistake that so many homeowners do by mowing down a patch of poison ivy or attacking it with a weed eater machine. All that does is spread the seeds of the plant so that instead of having one stubborn patch that will immediately grow back after mowing you’ll have dozens of possible patches of poison ivy. Remember, cutting the plant just scatters it. To effectively get rid of poison ivy you have to remove it by the roots or kill the entire vine from the roots outward.