March 15, 2015

Home Inspection Issues: Inadequate structural support.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 2:59 pm

If you are planning to buy or sell a home and have hired an inspector to help you gain better insight into the condition of the property, structural support is important.

The Skeletal System of a Home
When our homes are properly supported we tend to take it for granted, and not think about it too much. That’s how it should be, because when a home has strength and integrity it conveys peace of mind so that we don’t have to worry.

But there are also situations where structural support is inadequate, and the results can range from annoying to catastrophic. An unsupported countertop in the kitchen may sway and dip and be inconvenient and unsightly, while an unsupported roof could eventually trigger a collapse that could be lethal.

What Could Go Wrong?
You may have read about a building collapse in the news at one time or another. They do happen, although they are fortunately quite rare. Helping keep them from happening are building codes and construction techniques that are continually updated as necessary to ensure that ever occupied building is correctly engineered for safety and structural stability.

When things do go wrong, however, it is often because a remodel was done by people who were inexperienced or negligent. In less serious instances, an inspection may reveal, for example, that the framing of the counters in your kitchen are not sturdy enough to support the heavy granite tops that were put on them to spruce them up.

But things get a lot more complicated and dangerous when a supportive wall is removed in order to open up the floor plan. In that case it could mean that the entire weight of the structure above is bearing down on nothing but thin air. There are documented cases, for instance, of multistory brick buildings that imploded as the floors fell like stacked pancakes on top of one another because someone removed a critical supporting wall, pillar, or beam.

How to Remedy the Situation
Review your inspection report, and if the inspector has flagged potential structural problems, discuss any questions you may have with them. The next step is to have a qualified contractor or building engineer take a closer look and evaluate the nature of any problem that may exist. You should get at least three bids for any work that is recommended to fix problems.

Buyers and sellers can negotiate who pays for any needed work to restore the structural integrity. Normally the seller either pays for it or gives the buyer a repair allowance or discount on the sales price so that the buyer can take care of it after they move into the home.

Following Up After Needed Repairs
After repairs are finished it is also a good idea to have your original inspector return to do a follow-up inspection. They can check the work to ensure that it was done correctly and then issue an amended report to give the home a clean bill of health.

Real Estate Tips: Home Warranties vs. Pre-Listing Inspections

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 2:58 pm

Many real estate listing agents use home warranties as an incentive to appeal to homeowners who are ready to put their properties on the market. The idea behind this strategy of using a home warranty as a marketing tool is that the real estate professional offers to compensate the seller for the cost of a home warranty.

How Do Home Warranties Incentivize Clients?
The warranty is a type of consumer insurance policy, not unlike the extended warranties that are often offered at electronics stores or when you buy a computer, cell phone, or major appliance. In the event that you have a problem with your purchase during the warranty period, the provider of that warranty coverage will repair, replace, or otherwise compensate you so that you do not have to incur out-of-pocket expenses.

Similarly, with a home warranty if something should go wrong with a component such as an appliance or HVAC system that is eligible for coverage under the policy, it will be taken care by the warranty company. That can be really reassuring for a home seller who doesn’t want to risk having to repair or replace something expensive prior to closing. Some home warranties also extend to cover the new buyer for a period of time, giving them extra peace of mind and less concern that if they buy a home and there is problem such as a backed-up plumbing drain, they have coverage.

Why a Pre-Inspection May Be a More Value-Adding Incentive
Although a pre-inspection costs about the same as a home warranty, it may be a more valuable incentive for your homeowner clients. If you have a choice of reimbursing them or otherwise offering them this type of bonus or perk, you may want to consider a pre-inspection as a more useful option.

With a pre-inspection the homeowner benefits from a professional evaluation of their home by a qualified inspector who can point out any areas that may need repair, upgrade, or further investigation by a contractor.

That kind of information, known prior to listing and marketing a home, can help the seller preempt any potential problems that could turn away buyers, cause delays or problems during the sale, or even cause a sale to fall through before closing.

Saving a sale from falling apart at the last minute can be worth a great deal more than the nominal cost of a pre-listing inspection, because losing a chance to sell to a qualified buyer can cost your homeowner thousands of dollars in wasted time and effort.

Pre-Inspections Are Ideal Preparation Tools
Doing a pre-inspection is also one of the most valuable, but often underrated, marketing tools available to listing agents and their clients. One of the most stressful parts of the selling process, as every real estate agent or experienced seller knows, is the inspection ordered by the buyer. Homeowners wait and worry, fearing that the inspection will uncover some unknown problem that will scare away a buyer or cause unwanted delays while repairs have to be negotiated and done.

But if you do a pre-inspection that diffuses all of that potential concern and gives everyone greater peace of mind, because sellers are made aware of any potential issues before the house every goes on the market. That gives them plenty of time to evaluate their options, make repairs in the most affordable way without any pressure of time constraints, and then list the home with real confidence.
You can also print out the inspection report – along with any receipts from contractors for repairs that were done according to the inspector’s recommendations – and share those with potential buyers. Not only will that impress the buyers that the house is in great shape, but it will show them a special pride in ownership and proactive attitude about home maintenance. In the world of real estate that is the equivalent of shopping for a used car and finding one that was driven infrequently by someone’s grandmother who had it serviced every three months at the dealership.

So if you want to really stand out from the competition in this year’s real estate market, why not offer a pre-inspection incentive? Or double down and offer that along with a home warranty, for an irresistible combo of incentives your clients will really appreciate.

Homeowner Tips: Essential items for power outages.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 2:52 pm

Spring may be just around the corner, but forecasters have also predicted that this will be an especially long winter. That means that in many parts of North America there may be late winter storms that bring both ice and snow. At the same time, March is typically a very windy month. So there may still be plenty of challenging weather on the menu for March, and that can make it a month when the power goes out unexpectedly.

That increases the importance of incorporating emergency planning into your home maintenance regimen. Storms that knock out power can be an annoyance, and if they are severe enough they can be potentially dangerous. To minimize the inconvenience while maximizing the health of your home and the safety of its occupants, every home should have drinking water, food, a heat source, and adequate supplies of any prescription medicines that occupants of your home need.

Medicines
Most families know that they need to stock at least a week’s supply of any important prescription medications that family members require. What they often neglect to do, however, is to also stock up on medicines that they pets may need.

Another easy mistake to make is to stash those meds and then just forget about them. That could mean that when you really need them in an emergency they have passed their expiration date and may not be as effective.

The way to keep track of this is when you put prescriptions into your emergency stash, go to your calendar and make a note to check them prior to the expiration date. That way you’ll have a reminder to replace drugs in a timely fashion.

Water
If you drink contaminated water you can develop a terrible illness which will only magnify the gravity of your situation and make you too weak to take care of yourself.
Even if water looks clear and clean, it may contain bacteria that can cause dysentery or other potentially life-threatening diseases. The solution is to boil the water before you drink it, to kill any harmful bacteria.

Fortunately there are also many water purification gadgets on the market that help you filter and sterilize water before you drink it.But if you want to save on money and keep it simple, you can buy water purification tablets that dissolve in water to make it safe.

The Centers for Disease Control also advises that you can purify a gallon of water with 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of household bleach – as long as the bleach is the plain kind and has no added perfumes or scenting chemicals. Set aside just a pint bottle of bleach and you’re good to go, with enough to purify between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water.

Warmth
Keeping warm can be one of the biggest challenges, especially for the majority of homeowners who do not have a fireplace to rely upon as a back-up plan. If you heat with gas, and the gas is still working, you’re in great shape. But while your gas stove may work when the power is off, most furnaces use electricity for ignition or in the thermostat. That means that even if the gas is on you won’t have heat if the electrical grid is down.

One way to protect yourself is with a portable heater, but many of these use kerosene or other fuel and need to be properly ventilated so that you don’t inhale toxic carbon monoxide. So use them with care, following all the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.

Keep plenty of warm clothes (including thick socks) and blankets on hand, because you can always pile on the layers to stay warm. Another great idea is to invest in some quality sleeping bags made for camping, that are rated for extreme cold. You can check their tags to find out what temperatures they are designed for, and you can find many high-tech sleeping bags that are also super lightweight and even pack up into a tiny bundle that is easy to store. If you are caught in a worse case scenario, you can always bundle up in sleeping bags and stay warm that way until the power comes back on or other help arrives.

Food
Food is the easy part, because you can purchase emergency food supplies made for military use. We’re talking high-calorie bars used by the Coast Guard or high-protein “meals ready to eat” or MRE’s that are used by all branches of the military to feed soldiers in the field. You can even stock up on Ramen noodles and cans of tomato paste to survive most any off-grid situation for a long, long time.
But the mistake that most people make is that they only stock their emergency pantry with that kind of food, which is ordinary, rather tasteless, and not much fun to eat. Why is that a mistake? You can survive on it, but in an emergency one of the only ways to keep your spirits high and have something to look forward to is if you have tasty treats. Otherwise children, and even adults, can get really cranky or bummed-out with really nothing to entertain them and not much to do.

So make sure you also invest in high-energy granola bars or similar sweet treats that are also packed with nutrition. Think about other treats you and your kids like that have a long shelf life and don’t require cooking.

Make a fun menu for your emergency food supplies – including raisons, peanut butter and jelly, fruit roll-ups, and maybe some marshmallows plus some unopened boxes of saltines that last a long time without getting stale. You can also buy military MRE bread, which tastes a little strange at first but lasts forever without getting stale. When you’re hungry and have something yummy to spread on it you’ll quickly adapt to the taste.

Stash some condensed milk and a tin of powdered hot chocolate, too, plus plenty of coffee. That way you can have a hot cup of java or hot chocolate every hour, and that is great for your morale. Keep some vanilla extract around the kitchen, too, and you can whip up some snow ice cream with that and some condensed milk.