April 15, 2015

Home Inspection Issues: Toilets, faucets, pipes, and other potential plumbing problems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 9:35 am

In the grand scheme of things, a dripping faucet or toilet that continues to run long after the tank should stop refilling may be no big deal. But they could slow down the smooth close of a real estate transaction, and that might be a very big deal. Meanwhile plumbing problems themselves can range from annoying to downright catastrophic, so buyers and sellers should pay close attention to any and all comments about the plumbing system that a home inspector may include in the inspection report.

Possible Problems or Red Flags
Because the plumbing system is one of the most significant parts of any home, there are dozens of things that could go wrong or warrant a closer look. Here are some typical examples of issues that are commonly flagged:

Inadequate Water Pressure or Venting
Oftentimes, especially if the original plumbing was not accurately designed, there will be too little water pressure. You may turn on a shower upstairs, for example, while someone else has the kitchen faucets on downstairs, and you won’t get enough water.

Pipes also need proper venting, otherwise flow will be compromised and you may have unsavory and unhealthy odors from clogged sewage vents.

Outdated Pipe Materials
Old –fashioned galvanized steel pipes, used extensively in homes built in the 1960s, can corrode and leak. Meanwhile if copper pipes are jointed to galvanized ones, the two metals do not play well together and can corrode – which often happens in places where you cannot see the joints because they are hidden inside the walls.

Improper Drainage
Pipes utilize gravity to safely and reliably drain the water that you have used away from the home. But many times pipes are not installed on a steep enough angle or grade to allow this kind of flowing “downstream” and that can cause plumbing to back up in troublesome ways.

Too Little Septic Capacity
Homes that are on a private septic system can also suffer from too many gallons of water draining into an undersized septic system or tank. Even adding a water-using appliance like a dishwasher or an extra toilet in the house can be enough to cause the septic to hit its capacity. This is not part of a standard home inspection, and this inspection should be done by companies that install and/or service septic systems.

Hot Water Tank Problems
Hot water tanks also tend to reach the end of their lifespan and show signs of rust – and the important safety valve installed on the unit could freeze-up with corrosion and stop working. In that case it presents a safety hazard because pressure can build up inside the tank and have no place to go.

Dripping Faucets/Running Toilets
Not only are drips and running toilets aggravating, they can cause you huge water bills each month. So your inspector may note these relatively minor details in the report, but don’t overlook them or minimize them because not addressing them can have expensive consequences over time.

What to Do Next
If your inspector makes any notes regarding issues with the plumbing, the first step is to communicate with them about any questions you may have to make sure you understand why they included those in the report.

Then get competitive bids from at least three qualified plumbers and an itemized list of any necessary or recommended repairs or upgrades. If this is a sales transaction, the buyer and seller should then negotiate regarding who will pay for or perform the repairs, and whether it will be done prior to closing or afterwards.
Once any plumbing issues have been addressed, it is a good idea for the homeowner to have the inspector make a follow-up visit to inspect the work and give the home a seal of approval.

Real Estate Advice: Cross-selling techniques to double your income.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 9:32 am

With the busiest season in the real estate industry now underway in most parts of North America, the race is on to gain lucrative listings, close profitable sales, and win new clients in ideal target markets. But many real estate agents will miss the opportunity to multiply the benefit of those successes because they don’t take advantage of cross-selling. Instead of simply viewing each transaction as a “one-off” and hoping that somewhere down the road that same customer will call, employ strategic techniques to help you constantly encourage multiples sales through each client.
Here are some tips for making cross-selling a natural part of your real estate activity and marketing:

Referral “Asks”
We all know that it pays to ask, but it’s an easy technique to forget. When your homeowner or buyer is still riding the “high” of closing a successful transaction, at that key moment when you may be thinking of giving them a housewarming gift, be sure to clearly and intentionally ask them if they know anyone who needs a real estate professional. Maybe they have a friend or family member – either locally or out of the area.

Don’t be shy. Let them know how important this is to you, and request that they personally introduce you. It may seem awkward or like a high-pressure tactic, but remember that social media has made it so much simpler and easier. If they provide an email, Facebook, or LinkedIn introduction, for example, that may all you need to acquire a new client. But if you hesitate and procrastinate you may miss your best chance at a great word-of-mouth referral.

In this industry word-of-mouth is the most valuable and effective advertising of all, and your existing clients are your best resource in that regard. Keep in mind that even if the person they refer you to lives on the other side of the country, you can still earn referral fees through other brokers. Plus people are moving all the time, and so are their coworkers, relatives, and friends. So you never know when the seeds you plant today will yield a cash crop of clients sometimes down the road.

Open Houses
Hosting an open house for a listing is generally viewed by homeowners as a tool for helping sell the home. But most real estate professionals know from experience that only a tiny percentage of homes sell that way. In the majority of cases holding an open house is more effective at making the client feel that you are working hard to promote a sale, and less effective at actually bringing in qualified buyers for the property.

Open houses do, however, have a strong track record for generating good leads for real estate agents. Many of the people who attend are just “window shopping,” but usually one or two at any well-attended open house are seriously in the market for a home. So while the open house may seem like an outdated method, don’t completely write it off. When it comes to picking up new clients you may find that well organized open house events that are well-attended can be very rewarding and help you gain lots of valuable free marketing.

Income-Producing Incentives
Every time someone buys, leases, or sells a home, you should also be prepared to show them the potential for ownership of income-generating property. Many people own real estate as part of their retirement investment portfolio, for example, and many professionals like doctors and attorneys partner with their colleagues to purchase commercial office space.
Your clients may be able to save money and generate extra income by buying a vacation home. Or they may want to invest in a vacant lot in their neighborhood for a low-cost potentially high-return investment. There are also opportunities for parents to buy condos in cities where their kids are going to college. That can offset the cost of housing, be a way for roommates to help pay the mortgage, or offer specific tax breaks. If the home is in the student’s name it can also help them qualify for in-state tuition, which could potentially save them tens of thousands of dollars each year in tuition costs.

The Bottom Line
Since most people who buy a home live it for years – if not for the rest of their lives – then depending on them for your next listing or sale can turn out to be an unsustainable strategy. You don’t want to sell a home to a first-time buyer and then wait around for 10 or 20 years for them to sell it. That’s why it’s so important to try to figure out effective ways to cross-sell – or, in other words, to have each of your transactions lead to others in the immediate or very near future.

Homeowner Tips: Does your home have toxic formaldehyde levels?

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:31 am

Many consumers across North America were alarmed by a recent “60 Minutes” TV show investigation focused on the presence of unacceptable levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring products sold by Lumber Liquidators. At the center of the controversy were products imported from China that apparently failed to meet California’s rather stringent health regulations. Speaking for the company, the head of Lumber Liquidators defended his products as safe and promised that if they were not adhering to regulations he would find out and take action.

What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly found in construction product polymers and adhesives, and is often used in building materials such as particle board and plywood. Although it has been shown that extended exposure to formaldehyde, especially in closed, non-ventilated environments, can cause serious health risks, it is still widely used. The primary problem is that the chemical gives off gases that are then inhaled, and prolonged exposure can cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. That’s because manufacturers have not yet found a comparable replacement chemical that is just as affordable.

Regulatory Action
The state of California, which has the strictest environmental regulations in the USA, tightly regulates the levels of formaldehyde that are permissible. Although researchers have known for many years that extended exposure to higher concentrations of formaldehyde can present serious health risks, however, the U.S. Congress did not pass the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act until 2010.

That federal legislation regulates the levels of formaldehyde emissions from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particle board that is sold, supplied, offered for sale or manufactured in the United States, and finished goods produced from these composite wood products.

The Presence of Formaldehyde
One of the most common ways that homeowners are adversely affected by formaldehyde is when they live in a mobile home or manufactured home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “higher levels have been found in new manufactured or mobile homes than in older conventional homes.”

But how do you know what levels are present in your home, especially if it is not a brand new home and you aren’t sure how much formaldehyde was used in building it? Even though certain high levels of contamination are illegal, most homeowners do not want to be exposed to any elevated levels of formaldehyde, especially if they have children who are especially susceptible to health risks from formaldehyde exposure.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
If you suspect that formaldehyde is compromising your health and well being you should contact a qualified environmental inspector. They can run tests to evaluate your home and see if there are toxic levels of the chemical present. To take a more proactive approach you should also insist that contractors or builders only use products that have acceptable levels of formaldehyde or are completely formaldehyde-free. Keep in mind that formaldehyde may also be used in the manufacturing of furniture. To read more about what the EPA has to say about formaldehyde in wood products, check out this link to the EPA website: