July 15, 2014

Home Inspection Issues: Resolving minor but important items on the inspector’s report.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 2:19 pm

Let’s talk about an issue that does not get enough attention and may seem relatively minor compared to other topics we’ve covered in the past such as foundation repairs, termites, or flooded basements – namely “the small stuff.”

When Small Items Become Major Issues
Although there is no one particular item within the category of “small things” that may warrant an entire article, if you tally up all of those little items on an inspection report it can – and often is – one of the most important issues that concern the homeowner. In fact, if you were to talk to 100 veterans of the home inspection profession, most of them would likely agree – and so would the majority of real estate agents – that home sellers frequently “sweat the small stuff” and get most upset when they see minor items on the inspection report.

This can definitely trigger problems between buyers and sellers that require sensitive negotiations in order to get past the issue and ensure a smooth closing. A seller can get very uptight and feel like they are being “nickel and dimed to death” when the buyer demands that little “handyman” repairs get done prior to closing. Then buyers dig in their heels and refuse to budge. Both parties become entrenched. Emotions become raw. Stalemates happen. Negotiations are paralyzed. Sales fall apart over issues that should be insignificant.

The Problem
Home buyers and sellers usually “get it” about why an inspector will write up a critique of something like a damaged roof, badly needed paint job, or an HVAC unit that is not putting out sufficient heat or cold air. But sellers in particular can get really peeved and impatient when the report comes back and mentions what the homeowner considers small, insignificant stuff. They often complain to their real estate agents that the inspector is being too nit-picky. “Why are they being so critical and hard on us,” they may say. “Is the inspector trying to kill this deal that we have worked so hard to make happen?”

To be honest, that kind of reaction is not totally out of line or unreasonable, because the typical homeowner who responds this way is not really at fault. They are just less informed and not as experienced, so they really can’t be expected to understand why some of these issues show up on the inspection report.

What to Do Next
As soon as your receive the inspection report, review it carefully and if you are the buyer, go over it with your Realtor and let the seller know if any repairs should be done.

You may see recommendations, for example, to fix cracked window panes, missing or broken doorknobs, torn or missing window screens, shaky handrails, chipped steps leading up to your doors, or even porch lights that don’t work. One reason that those may show up in the report is because your inspector is concerned about your health and safety. A porch light that doesn’t work may not seem like a big hazard. But if you trip in the dark and wind up with a broken ankle it starts to make sense why it was mentioned. Cracked panes can cut your child’s hand or allow a strong gust of wind to send glass shards raining down into your home. Missing screens can invite more mosquitoes, including those that carry potentially serious diseases. A shaky handrail could become an expensive lawsuit if a visitor to your home falls, as could a damaged step.

In this way you can see that there are solid reason behind this seemingly innocuous repair suggestions. Talk to your inspector and they will explain their thinking and reasons. Then work it out in a mature way between buyer and seller, confident that both of your are receiving fair and professional treatment and help that is beneficial for everybody involved.

Real Estate Advice: Technology is not the enemy, it’s your vehicle to success.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 2:15 pm

Today’s buyers and sellers are much more technologically connected than they were in generations past, and for many real estate agents and brokers that feels threatening. Anyone with a computer – or a smart phone, for that matter – can jump on the Internet and access MLS listings, tax records, and tons of other housing market and property data in less time than it takes to call a Realtor. They don’t even have to hop in a car to go check out the curb appeal or location of a property, as long as they know how to manipulate Google Earth.

There is No Substitute for Professionalism, Know-How, and Expertise
So it is easy to see why lots of real estate professionals are afraid that they will soon become irrelevant and dispensable. Consumers may also be more inclined to believe that paying a Realtor is not necessarily worth it, and they may be more confident than ever before that buying and selling a home is more or less a do-it-yourself proposition. Of course after a few of their deals fall apart or they run into a complex issue they are not equipped to handle, those same consumers may rethink the whole thing and better understand why Realtors deserve their hard-earned commissions.

Your Toughest Competitor is Negative Mindset
Sure, it is a fiercely competitive industry. You are not just competing against those kinds of consumer challenges but are also battling for listings and struggling to find eager and qualified buyers. If you want to go places in this business, though, you have to accept that reality and not use it as an excuse to lose your enthusiasm or feel frustrated and disappointed. All throughout its history the real estate business has been made up of two kinds of professionals – those who are expert at pointing out reasons why they cannot succeed, and those who are adept and willing to do at whatever it takes to be a smashing success.

Hard Work and Constant Learning Eliminates the Competition
The good news is that brokers and agents like yourself who have a positive attitude and a creative, strategic approach don’t actually have as much competition as you may think. Do you know any real estate agents who don’t work as hard as you do, or who work just as hard but do not manage their time as effectively and efficiently? Do you know some who don’t take advantage of innovative business tools to work smarter, or who fail to embrace the latest real estate technologies?

You can check them off your list of competitors. Just because they show houses or canvas neighborhoods for listings once in a while, that doesn’t mean they are any credible competition for you. Lots of people “play at real estate” and that’s fine. We should respect them for taking an interest in the profession and there is room enough in this industry for everyone.
But you should be mainly competing against yourself. Work to raise the bar of your own standards so high that nobody else can imitate you or duplicate your results. You are unique, and when you leverage that to your advantage consumers will see that you bring a one-of-a-kind value-add to the table and to their transactions.

The MLS Was Originally Considered a Bad Idea
There are still a few veterans of the real estate game who recall the days when you had to be a Realtor without the help of the MLS system. They would have to look through gigantic books that were updated at a snail’s pace just to locate an active listing. If they wanted to run some comps they might need to set aside the whole weekend, because it was done painstakingly and manually – with pen, paper, and calculator in hand.

That may sound like a nightmare or an impossible way to work and make a living. But what is probably harder to get your head around and imagine is that when computerized MLS databases were first introduced, they met harsh criticism and resistance. Many real estate pros were convinced that they were a mistake that was going to cost them too much time to master and too much money to maintain. They protested against bringing the MLS into existence, because they thought it threatened their real estate careers.

Embrace Change and Invite Success
Think about that for a moment, and then try to imagine being a successful Realtor without that basic and essential tool we all take for granted. The point is this. While technology may seem threatening to those who are always looking for a way to justify their unremarkable results, the top producers are the first to use it, leverage it to their advantage, and make money from it.
So next time you feel hesitant in the face of innovations that give your customers more power, remember than an informed buyer or seller is a much better one. The more they learn, the more they will learn to appreciate how much they still do not know – and how valuable you are to be there at those times when their own knowledge and experience is not nearly enough to solve the problem or help them find the solution they desire.

Homeowner Tips: Cut down on utility bills this summer.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 2:12 pm

Utility bills are high enough during the kind of winter we had, but believe it or not summer is already well under way, with blistering temperatures in many parts of North America. Oftentimes the only reprieve is to crank up the air conditioning, but everyone knows that can cost money – adding to the strain on your household budget for utilities. So here are some timely seasonal tips to help you defray those costs without sacrificing your family’s comfort. They also include some ideas for getting the most of sunny summer days while they last.

Blinds and Fans

Closing the blinds or window shades during the day on the sunny side of your home automatically cools down your home, and it does not cost a penny. You can save as much as 25% or more in air conditioning cost that way. So make closing of those blinds a daily ritual – and count the savings every time you do it.

Another easy trick that doesn’t cost anything is to make sure your ceiling fans are moving air in the correct direction to keep your home cooler. Your fan probably has a remote control device that has a button for changing fan blade direction. If not, look on the engine housing of the fan for a button or switch that lets you shift the direction that the fans or rotors move. They either go clockwise or counterclockwise.

During summertime, make sure they are spinning counterclockwise. That pushes cool air downward where it will make you feel cooler and more comfortable, instead of being wasted as it cools your ceiling. That simple adjustment can save you a considerable amount on your cooling costs because it can drop the room temperature by as much as 8-10 degrees.
Check Your A/C System

We all know that if your tires are not fully inflated and the fuel filter is dirty, it adds wear and tear on your vehicle and cuts down on your gas mileage, running up fuel costs. The same logic applies to your HVAC unit. When the filters aren’t clean the unit is forced to work harder, but still doesn’t produce the kind of cool air you expect. The unit outdoors may also have its air flow compromised due to being clogged or impeded by dust, leaves, and other debris.

Before it’s too late have your system checked by a trusted HVAC contractor who can do the necessary annual maintenance to keep it running in optimum condition. That should not cost much, and the increased efficiency you get from that basic maintenance will be paid back to you quickly in the form of lower air conditioning bills – and a unit that lasts longer without needed to be replaced.

Use a Smarter Thermostat

Smart thermostats that use computer technology to let you program them to suit your lifestyle and living habits are a great idea. But they have been outdated by an even better idea, in the form of so-called “learning thermostats.” Whereas conventional computerized devices require a lot of homeowner knowledge of how to program them – and regular monitoring to make sure the settings are in synch with your changing habits and needs – a learning thermostat eliminates much of that human intervention.

The problem with the older models is that most people who own them don’t use them properly, so they never deliver as much value as they potentially could. A learning thermostat solves that because after setting it up in a simple, one-time way then it keeps track of the rest for you. It figures out what times of day you need more cool air in summer, for instance, and which hours it is okay to let the A/C unit not work so hard. When you are asleep or at work, for instance, it saves air conditioning usage to save you money. Then when you want it the most – during the hottest time of the day – the learning thermostat helps make that happen. Invest in one and soon you’ll have a much more efficient HVAC unit that will help reduce wasted energy and money all year long.