June 15, 2015

Home Inspections: Issues in Attics

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 2:04 pm

Probably the last place you want to visit during the hot days of June is the stuffy upstairs attic of your home or the home you are planning to purchase. But attics can be a source of problems, and it is important for you to have yours checked-out by a qualified home inspector before you buy. If you are a proactive seller you may also want to hire an inspector to first illuminate any trouble areas that need attention before you list the home.

Check your written report, and if anything in the attic has been highlighted for further investigation or otherwise flagged by the inspector, pay attention to that. Talk it over with the inspector if needed, to fully understand what they observed. Because there are a lot of different things going on in an attic, the kinds of issues that might be brought to your attention can vary quite a bit, and below are some examples of common things the inspector may notice.

Potential Problems
• Before the inspector even accesses that uppermost space, they will likely do a preliminary inspection of the ladder, stairway, or other access point that you use to get into the attic. If the ladder is not sturdy, stable, and safe, for instance, that may be flagged in the report for repairs.

• Similarly, if the door, trapdoor, or other portal leading to the attic does not close and seal tightly – which could mean that heated or cooled air from the home’s interior is leaking into the attic – that might be a situation the inspection calls to your attention to help you save on energy bills.

• Once inside the attic, the inspector will look for a light in that confined space in case someone needs to go up there. If the fixture doesn’t work or needs a new light bulb, for instance, or the wiring is frayed and unsafe then that, too, can be a red flag issue. In fact, any wiring in the attic should be properly installed and insulated so if the inspector notices anything amiss, it will be noted in the report.

• Is there are water heater in the attic? Is it in good working condition? If not, it could malfunction and that could create a problem of flooding through the attic into your home. In some cases, when the safety valve on a water heater corrodes and locks-up, the appliances can even get pressurized and explode. But have no fear, because your inspector will alert you to any symptoms that your water heater needs to be repaired or replaced.

• Attic floors need to be properly insulated, too, in order to converse energy and keep your home comfortable. Your home may have a fan, turbine, or vent in the attic – or a vent in the ridge of the roof, too, and those should be working as intended.

• If windows in the attic have cracked or missing panes, that can be a problem – or an invitation to birds and rodents to move into the attic. That leads to another potential source of attic problems, invasive critters or insects which may be flagged by a home inspector who notices signs of infestation or incursion.

What to Do Next
• Depending upon what kinds of issues were detected or mentioned in the report, you should then contact the appropriate kind of qualified contractors and have them take a closer look. if there is a problem, get estimates from at least three of them for how much they would charge to remedy the situation.

• If the repairs are relatively minor that could possibly be a do-it-yourself project. But be sure you know what you’re doing, otherwise if your repair is inadequate it will simply complicate things and could jeopardize the sale of your home with further delays and negotiations.

• When selling a home you have options regarding who pays for what. You can refuse to do the repairs, which may cause the buyer to back out of the deal. Or you can pay to have the repairs done to the buyer’s satisfaction and complete the transaction. You may also deduct those costs from the sales price. In that case the buyer usually agrees to do the repairs themselves after they move into the home.

It is always prudent to have your inspector return for a follow-up inspection after you have completed any required repairs, to ensure they were done correctly.

Real Estate Tips: Dealing with FSBO Competitors

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 1:59 pm

During the summertime many homeowners decide to take real estate listing and marketing into their own hands, just to save money on the commission. That can be frustrating for real estate brokers and agents who understand that most homes sold with the help of a professional sell faster, for a higher price, with fewer headaches and hassles. But FSBO people usually have to learn the hard way – after which the majority of them wind up contracting with a listing agent because they finally realize that’s the best way to go.

Don’t ignore these sellers, however, because they are a great resource for future listings – and you may also be able to co-op with them to earn a commission for bringing them a qualified buyer. Here are some tactics you can use to engage these homeowners and, with a little persistence and luck, win them over as loyal clients.

Give Them Something for Free
Whether you reach out to the FSBO homeowners in your geographic market by newsletter, email, knocking on doors, or using social media like Facebook or Twitter, it’s important to give them something of value, free of charge.

That contradicts the commonly-held perception and misguided myth among many FSBO consumers that real estate professionals are only focused on making easy money. That’s often the argument FSBO people make for why they don’t work with a real estate agent. But when you give them a valuable tip or resource for free, they will change how they view you and you’ll become a beneficial partner – not an adversary.
What should you give? Knowledge and experience are the greatest assets you have to share. Provide them with free “comps,” turn them on to a good mortgage lender or home inspector, or tour their home and provide tips on how to make it show better. Write up a tip sheet about safety and security when showing homes to strangers, and give them that. Just keep it relevant, about them instead of you, and make sure it is a value-adding gift – not a sales pitch or thinly disguised marketing ploy.

Lead a FSBO Workshop or Class
• If there is a place to offer classes in your community – maybe through a local group like the Rotary Club – offer to teach a class about FSBO.

• In the class you can share the same kinds of info we just mentioned, plus tips about how to price a home, how to stage your home for better visual appeal, and what kinds of problems can arise when dealing directly with buyers.

• During the session it may occur to your students that you know a whole lot more about how it all works than they do, especially when it comes to things like legal contracts, difficult negotiations, and problems that could stall or ruin a potential sale.

• At the end of the class you will likely pick up a convert or two who decides to call you and list their home, rather than trying to take the DIY approach.
Talk Dollars and Sense
When you do have an opportunity to speak with a FSBO person, keep in mind that most people who embark on a DIY home sale are not very knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of the real estate business. They probably do not realize, for instance, that most brokers do not earn a 6% commission when they sell their listing.
You can inform them of how often brokers and agents split their commissions with other parties – and once they understand how the math works these FSBO sellers may be inclined to offer you a finder’s fee if you bring them a qualified buyer. That could be lucrative for you, and could lead to more word-of-mouth business from other homeowners who are DIY sellers.

Homeowner Tips: Maintain brickwork like a pro.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 1:50 pm

Summer is a great season for relaxing, and also for catching up on long-overdue home maintenance projects. Many of those require the expertise of a highly trained professional, but there are some that you may be able to complete as DIY projects.

One of those – which can be very expensive if you have to hire a masonry contractor – is touching up the mortar joints between brickwork around your home that may be starting to erode and deteriorate. While masonry work itself is generally rather complicated and requires hours and hours of practice, filling voids between bricks – a task the pros call “pointing up” or “tuck-pointing” the joints – is not rocket science. Mixing the right recipe for mortar can also be tricky, but today there are products available at any large home improvement center that solve that learning curve.

Tools and Products You’ll Need
Don’t try to mix your own sand, Portland cement, and water. If you get the ratios wrong the mortar will either be too thin and weak or it will be stronger and more dense than the adjoining bricks. Eventually such strong concrete can expand and cause the bricks next to it to crack and break.

• Buy a small sack of pre-mixed brick masonry mortar, which will be the right recipe for the job and follow the instructions for how much water to add to get a thick, caulk-like consistency. Use a small piece of wood – like a 12-inch by 12-inch piece of scrap plywood – to hold your mixed, wet mortar. You’ll also need a pointing trowel, which is a special type of trowel that is very skinny to help fit into mortar joints.

• Or take the easy route and buy Quikrete brand tuck-pointing mortar that comes ready to use in tubes just like the ones that dispense sealing caulk. You just aim into the gap you want to fill, using a regular caulk gun, and then smooth it out with your pointing trowel. If you accidentally smear mortar it can stain bricks, so be careful not to “paint outside the lines.” (To help clean up an accident, use a wet rag moistened with water.)
Get the right products and follow specific guidelines – while exercising plenty of patience and attention to detail – and you should be able to successfully point up bricks around your home just like a pro.

When to Call in a Professional
But don’t try to point up bricks on your chimney, because that is too hazardous. Not only do many homeowners fall from rooftops with catastrophic injuries or even lethal consequences, but if you use the wrong type of mortar on a chimney that is subjected to high temperatures, it may fail on you and create more harm than good.

Using ordinary mortar in a fireplace, meanwhile, can even cause an explosion as the air trapped in the mortar reacts with heat. Similarly, foundations made of brick or block that support your home should be maintained by certified pros, because if they lose their structural integrity it could be like Humpty Dumpty. You entire house could settle, shift, or worse.