February 15, 2015

Home Inspection Issues: Problems with stucco exteriors.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 2:50 pm

Homes with stucco exterior surfaces can last a lifetime and have a unique aesthetic look that can be very attractive. Many homes are made with a stucco exterior. But because of the unique characteristics of this material homeowners are often unsure of how to address home inspection issues related to stucco. After all, it is a somewhat unconventional type of material when compared to more widely-used exterior building materials such as wood siding, aluminum siding, or brick.

Stucco Issues on an Inspection Report
• Maybe you live in a home with a stucco exterior and ordered a pre-listing home inspection. A more common scenario is that you had a stucco home inspected because you are interested in buying it.

• Either way, the inspector may have found issues that need to be addressed, and this article will help explain what to do to move forward now that you have that information.

• Study the inspection report carefully and if you have any questions, ask the inspector for answers or clarification. In many cases an inspector will recommend that you have a qualified contractor take a closer look at the potential problem to further evaluate it or offer options for remedying any problems they find.

• There are also cases where the inspector will suggest that there is no serious problem, but will recommend that you pay attention to your stucco exterior as part of your routine maintenance.

• That way you can spot any telltale signs of trouble before they worsen and either notify your inspector to return for a closer look or call a reliable contractor for their insight.
Typical Issues with Stucco

• You may see cracking or crazing in the surface of stucco on the outside of your home, but that does not necessarily mean there is problem or premature deterioration. Stucco is a product made from sand and cement applied in rather thin layers. As cement dries it may show surface cracking that is part of its natural character.

• Then again, if the mixture was not prepared or applied correctly, stucco can dry too fast and then deeper structural cracks may develop. These can be problematic because the stucco may chip away, or rainwater and other moisture may seep into those cracks and damage the unprotected building materials such as framing and insulation that are behind the stucco.

• At the bottom of your exterior walls, where the foundation and the walls meet, there should also be something sometimes referred to as a “weep screed.” This is a component that captures water that comes down the outside wall and the safely redirects it away from your foundation so that it does not cause erosion or leakage.

• The inspector may have noticed that these are not correctly installed or are no longer functional. They can sometimes be mistakenly covered up, for instance, which prevents them from working as they should. Installing a sidewalk or patio that was poured too high, for example, or piling landscape dirt against the home could block or bury the weep screed.

What to Do Next
Once you have had the opportunity to have whatever was flagged in the inspection report checked-out by a contractor, you can take action. If only routine monitoring is required, that can be handled yourself or by having the inspector return once every year or two. If a repair is needed, then you should get competitive bids for the job from at least three qualified contractors.

If expenses are involved and you are trying to resolve the issue in order to close a home sale, then normally the buyer and seller will negotiate and reach an agreement. The seller may do the repairs prior to closing, for instance, or give the buyer a discount or cash allowance sufficient to cover the cost of repairs which can then be completed after the sale is finalized.

It is also a good idea to have your inspector return to check on the repairs once they are done and ensure that they were performed correctly and solved any problems.

Real Estate Tips: Educate sellers to get a head start.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 2:48 pm

During the month of February most real estate agents and their listing clients are busy hunkering down and trying to stay warm. But savvy real estate professionals capitalize on this cold month, realizing that it is their last best window of opportunity to gear-up for a more active and successful springtime selling season.

How do they leverage a slow, weather-challenged month to their advantage? Here are four of the main ways they accomplish that, by using the time to educate their selling clients and spruce up homes about to go on the market. Apply these and you, too, can add to your marketing efforts to help get the season off to a faster start.

Organize Documents
One of the biggest time-wasters when you are ready to put a listing on the market and get it sold is locating documents pertinent to the property. Buyers and their agents, as well as lenders, will want to have as much information as possible about a home before the transaction can move forward. Unfortunately most sellers lost valuable time because they are disorganized, and while they are hunting for answers or paperwork their neighbors are finalizing transactions and closing sales.

Use these last weeks of winter efficiently, while mortgage companies, surveyors, and your own listing clients are less busy and have more time on their hands.
Does the property need a new survey or appraisal? Do you need information from municipal authorities about water hook-ups or utility connections on a buildable lot? Does the seller have a print-out of the past 12 months of heating and electrical bills to share with potential buyers? Do they have their tax and mortgage documents and information about insurance somewhere they can quickly get their hands on it? What about warranty documents for appliances?

Make a list of relevant documents that can help speed up the marketing and sales process, and have your sellers get all of that paperwork together in an organizing fashion now, while there is plenty of time.

Clear the Clutter
One of the biggest challenges to showing and marketing a home is that it does not look its best. The better a home shows the faster it will sell, and the more likely you are to receive higher offering prices. So use February for an early jump on spring cleaning. Instruct your listing client homeowners to pack up as much of the clutter as they can, and neatly store it away in the attic, basement, or garage.
The more they can remove unnecessary items – including space occupiers like extra furniture – the more clean and spacious their property will appear. That automatically makes it more attractive to buyers because visual space creates the illusion of more square footage, making a home look more roomy and valuable.

Develop a To-Do List
You can even start adding exterior curb appeal by cleaning up fallen branches, clearing out dead plants from flower beds, and getting ready to mulch those beds and plant brightly colorful flowers as soon as the weather improves.

Will a new coat of paint or stain dress-up the front door? Does the porch light need a new bulb, and do the walkways need repairing? Are your homeowners ready to patch the bald spots in the lawn or disguise them by covering them with lawn furniture, potted plants, or a new flower bed?

Of course many projects that can boost curb appeal, showing value, and perceived equity may require repairs or updates. Make a list of those now so that you aren’t still in the process of preparing the listing when spring comes and finds you flat-footed and not ready to showcase the home.

Your list may include places where the home needs a fresh coat of paint, repaired window glass, landscaping, upgraded fixtures or appliances, or mending of things like shaky hand rails, slumping gutter pipes, or aging decks.

Line Up Contractors
Just as February is typically a slow month for real estate, the same applies to home contractors. But as soon as springtime arrives they will be swamped with requests and your homeowners may find themselves waiting in line for an appointment. The smart thing to do is to line up those contractors right now, when they are hungry for business and have plenty of space on their calendars.

You may also want to encourage your sellers to invest in a pre-listing home inspection, to help them identify and proactively address any potential issues that may arise when the buyer orders and inspection. The pre-listing inspector can point out what needs the most attention, so your homeowners can prioritize their budgets and work with contractors.

That way, armed with their to-do lists, homeowners can get their repair projects started and completed as soon as possible, and you can start listing and marketing their properties. While your competitors are still scrambling around to get ready, you’ll be taking full advantage of what is traditionally the most profitable season of the year to list and sell homes

Homeowner Maintenance: Dealing with winter ice.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 2:46 pm

Most of North America is in a deep freeze this month, and as weather patterns seem to intensify year after year, this could be an especially treacherous February. Winter in many regions will continue right on through March, and oftentimes major snowstorms will even hit in April.

As a homeowner you want to be vigilant in order to protect yourself and your family from potential injuries, and you also want to ensure that nobody else who visits you could slip and fall and hold you accountable. You also want to protect your home, of course, and ice can do considerable damage that can lead to costly repairs. So here are some helpful homeowner and home maintenance tips for dealing with ice so that you avoid problems and stay safe and healthy.

Should You Salt?
• Salting walkways and driveways can help to melt treacherous ice, but there are also downsides to salting with conventional salt. Salt can drain into the soil, for example, where it can be toxic to your lawn or to plants.

• But there are many excellent deicer products on the market today that don’t use conventional salt. Instead they are made from more environmentally-friendly chemicals. So you may want to shop for those products and keep them on hand for eliminating your icy walkways.

• After the deicer material melts the ice it sometimes freezes again, creating another hazard for slipping and falling. For that reason it is often wise to also use sand along with the deicer. Sand doesn’t melt ice, but it does add traction that can help you avoid slipping and sliding.

Keep an Eye on the Roof
Ice hazards are not just underfoot, though, so be sure to keep an eye on the roof during winter storms. Accumulated snow and ice can be heavy and even lead to sagging or a structural collapse of your roof. If you experience severe, heavy snows, you may need to enlist the help of a contractor to help you remove some of the weighty load from your roof.
A more common problem is that sheets of hard ice will accumulate on the roof, and then when temperatures warm they can be dislodged. If one of those falls on you it can be extremely dangerous. You can minimize the chance of this happening, while also eliminating many of those similarly hazardous large heavy icicles, by ensuring that your roof and gutter system are in proper working condition. When ice melts and is able to drain safely off the roof and away from your home through your gutters, for example, it presents much less of a potential problem.

Take Preventative Measures
• The best way to deal with ice and snow, of course, is to keep your home in tip-top shape so that it will not be at risk for issues that are exacerbated by harsh winter weather and freezing temperature.

• Many trees that are unhealthy cannot support the weight of ice and snow in winter, and the results can be catastrophic. Be sure to also keep a close eye on trees that could fall on you, your home, your automobile, or a vital utility wire.

• Have an arborist visit your home once a year and trim away any branches that are rubbing against the house or any dead or rotting wood that could cause a limb to come crashing down.

• Make sure your roof and gutters are in good repair, and keep your gutters clear of debris that can block them and render them useless for diverting melting ice and snow in winter.

• If you have cracks in your sidewalks those can fill with water than turns to ice and then acts as a wedge to split them even wider. So tend to those when the weather permits, too, so you’ll be better prepared to fend off damage from ice.

Make sure you have enough supplies like drinking water, candles, flashlights, batteries, and food to comfortably and safely handle a winter power outage, too. Sometimes despite your best efforts and ice storm can knock you off the power grid, but if you are ready you can keep your family safe and warm throughout that experience.