December 15, 2014

Home Inspection Issues: Common problems underfoot.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 9:29 am

This time of year, with all the ice and snow, we are all a little more cautious and aware of the surfaces underfoot. But a good home inspector pays attention to these safety details all year long, on a daily basis. That’s why it is common for inspection reports to include red flags or recommendations that relate to such things as walkway, floor tile, stairway, and decking or balcony maintenance and safety.
After all, tripping, slipping, and falling are not just accidents that happen in the dead of winter. One of the primary responsibilities of a home inspector is to ensure that the property is safe – for you, your family, and for any guests or others who may visit your home. So don’t be surprised if your home inspection report includes a mention one or more of these items – whether you are a potential buyer who ordered the inspection or you hired the inspector as a homeowner preparing to put your house on the market.

Common Issues

Improper Stair Design:

Stairs need to be designed with correct proportions, otherwise they can cause you to stumble. The “rise” is the part of each step that is vertical, and the “run” is the horizontal part that you step on as you climb. If those are not the right length or width, your inspector may recommend a repair or redesign.

Deck Surfaces:

Oftentimes people enjoy recreation on a deck or balcony while barefoot, and toddlers may also crawl around on those surfaces. So if the materials used are prone to splintering, that can be a hazard. The inspector may recommend an upgraded surface or new decking boards, for example, if the existing ones are splintered, chipped, or otherwise not smooth and safe.

Walkways and Balconies:

The same applies to nails or screws that may be protruding up that could cause a trip or puncture. Outdoor walkways may also present tripping hazards, so sometimes these will be flagged. Potholes in driveways may also be pointed out as problematic, as may significantly cracked or broken concrete or tile surfaces on balconies.

Interior Surfaces:

Other tripping hazards include wall-to-wall carpet that is not properly installed such that there are ripples in the carpet or other places where the carpet can cause you to stumble. Similarly, ceramic floors in kitchens, bathrooms, or mud rooms that are not slip resistant enough can be hazardous – especially since they are prone to getting wet.

Related Problems

The inspection report may also include recommendations to repair or replace items that are not necessarily underfoot, but still relate to slipping and falling. When you are walking up stairs, for example, you need to have a steady handrail. If you are leaning on the balcony or deck, the sides of that structure need to be high enough that you won’t accidentally tip over and fall. Walkways and stairs also have to have adequate lighting so that you can see where you are stepping. So there are a variety of issues related to walking and stepping that may also be flagged by your inspector.

What to Do Next

Review the report and clarify anything you don’t understand with your inspector. Then share the report with a qualified contractor who have the skills and know-how to help you remedy, replace, or upgrade any items on the report that need to be addressed. You may need to get bids, for example, from repair people who specialize in masonry and concrete or decks or carpet installation.
After getting bids and opinions, if the inspection was part of a sales transaction then the buyer and seller will negotiate. Sometimes the seller will give a discount equal to the cost of the repair, for instance, or will pay to have it taken care of before closing out their own pocket.

Real Estate: How to stay busy in December.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 9:27 am

Because December is the busiest month of year for holiday gatherings and festivities, it can be the slowest time of year to stay engaged as a real estate professional. Most of your clients will be too preoccupied with holiday plans on days like Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s to be bothered with listing appointments. Potential buyer also want to spend their free time shopping or going to get-togethers and parties instead of driving around touring homes that are on the market.

But that does not mean that your December cannot be fully productive. Here are some progressive ways to stay busy advancing your real estate career this December, in ways that will repay you in 2015.

Organize Your Outreach

Most real estate professionals want to expand their marketing efforts, but they just don’t have enough time. Use the slow weeks of December to catch up on the things that help you get your name out to your potential clients. Update your database of contacts, retool you website, and write fresh listing presentation scripts. Write some newsletter articles to send later in the year, or launch a social media campaign with a blog, twitter feeds, or a series of email blasts.

Educate Yourself

Do you have annual continuing education credits that you need to complete in order to keep your professional license up-to-date? Take care of those now so the classes or exams don’t interfere with your work in the busy season. Branch out and enhance your skills by becoming adept at a new software program to help your business or by taking a class in marketing or public speaking. Sign up for a coaching session to learn how to more effectively run your business or design and broadcast your personal brand.

Cultivate Strategic Partnerships

Since much of December is spent socializing, not really working, then why not go with the flow? Accept those cocktail party invitations and call up some of your colleagues in the industry or fellow business people in the community and share a cup of coffee. Use the social opportunities that this “off” season presents to widen your business network and social circle. After all, the real estate business is a people industry, and the more you nurture strategic partnerships the more you’ll be referred by those people to potential clients.

Recharge Your Batteries

The real estate world can be stressful, and many real estate agents who are not able to manage that pressure eventually buckle under it and hit an impasse. Don’t let that happen to you. Work-life balance is crucial, and if you spend the holidays worrying about how slow business is during the winter it won’t help you have a positive, optimistic mindset. So view “me time” spend enjoying yourself as an integral component of your business model.

Many of the most powerful executives in the world hire personal coaches to remind them to do basic things like eat well, get enough exercise, and spend time with their families. But you don’t need to hire an expensive executive coach. Just pencil in the time the month to take extra care of yourself. Then when business picks up and gets a little crazy in the spring you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of it – rather than getting burned out because of the frenzy in ways that will cost you lost productivity and income.

Homeowner Tips: December DIY Safety

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:26 am

DIY tasks are not just work, but they can also contribute to your qualify of life, self-confidence, and that uplifting feeling that comes from a job well done. Getting out there on a cold day to shovel snow, split firewood, or clear tree limbs that fell during a storm, for instance, can make you feel proud and satisfied.

But unless you are physician you probably did not know that the holiday season can be especially hazardous to your health. Yes, it’s a medical fact. So while you may have a tendency to go all-out all year ‘round, don’t forget that the first rule of any home maintenance project is “safety comes first.” That’s true for professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike.
Safety First, Especially During the Holidays

According to a report in USAToday, the peak days of the year for heart attacks all occur during the traditional holiday season. Many of those happen while homeowners are working, too.

• One explanation is that blood vessels constrict in cold weather, which elevates blood pressure and increases the chances of a blood clot that lead to a heart attack or stroke. When you exert yourself physically while exposed to cold temperatures, that can compound the strain on your body. One of the biggest culprits that doctors routinely document is snow shoveling, which can be a deceptively strenuous activity.

• As grim as it sounds, the greatest number of heart attack deaths occur on Christmas Day. The next highest number happen the day after Christmas or on New Year’s Day. Researchers at the University of California, and Tufts University School of Medicine found increases in cardiac deaths for all except just two of the holiday periods between 1973 and 2001.
The good news is that just being aware of the connection between ordinary DIY projects and the December phenomenon of greater threats to your health can enable you to work smarter, not harder.

What to Do to Stay Safe

• Take it easy. If you are removing snow shovel slowly, and work in short shifts, rather than attacking the snow in your driveway all at once. Pace yourself, in other words, just as you would if you were working outdoors on the hottest day of the year and didn’t want to overexert yourself or get dehydrated.

• Remember than hydration is also vital even in frigid weather, and alcohol may quench your thirst but it does not actually warm up the body or contribute to healthy hydration.

• So as tempting as it may be, try to drink water, hot soup, or a cup of hot chocolate instead of eggnog – if you plan to do some work like shoveling snow or hauling firewood.

• According to the American Heart Association, people also shouldn’t eat a big meal beforehand. So schedule your cardio-boosting DIY activities for between meals. Then when you are finished and ready to go inside and warm up you can treat yourself to a hearty meal and festive beverage.

Other Contributing Factors

But this spike in heart attacks even happens in balmy climates. What happens is that people tend to postpone health care – or put off going to the doctor or emergency room – when they are in the middle of a holiday celebration. Maybe they don’t want to disrupt the festive mood, or they are just distracted and chalk their symptoms up to overeating.
Play it safe. Don’t risk an adverse health event that could definitely spoil the holidays for you and your loved ones. If you don’t feel well, tell someone. When in doubt, get to your doctor of the nearest emergency room. Most of all, take advantage of the holidays to rest, relax, and spend quality time with friends and family. Many of those chores can wait a little while, and you deserve to pause and celebrate.