January 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Dealing with symptoms of structural problems.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 3:25 pm

One of the most compelling reasons to always hire a home inspector before you purchase a home is to have professional help spotting symptoms of structural damage. We say symptoms, as opposed to conclusive evidence, because a home inspector doing a general inspection really has no way of knowing exactly what is going on in hidden parts of the home that are not visible to the naked eye.

To really diagnose a structural problem – such as warped framing or a cracked foundation, for example – you have to do a much more intensive investigation that may be rather invasive. You might have to dig up the ground around the home’s foundation, for instance, or open up walls that are covered with sheetrock.

But that in no way minimizes the value of what your home inspector brings to the table. He or she may spot telltale symptoms that a person without that expertise and knowledge might not even notice – and can alert you within the inspection report. Then you can take steps to have a specialist take a closer look to ascertain what is really going on with the building.

Common Signs that Might Be Flagged in the Report
Some signs are curvatures that are not normal along the walls of the home or ripples and waves in the floors. If you place a golf ball on the floor and it rolls across the room, that might mean that the house is tilted – which may be symptomatic of a shifted foundation. If the inspector mentions seeing spider web shaped cracking around window frames or doorways, that is another common symptom of a structurally unstable building.

The inspector may see visible cracks in the walls or the foundation, or could notice that an inadequate number of properly-spaced piers are holding up the house. A tree could even be growing next to the house and its roots might be pushing the slab the house sits upon up and making it buckle.

Those are just an example of some of the common signs that may be flagged in a report, and you should always ask your inspector for specific clarification if you need to know more.

Why It’s a Red Flag Issue
When a home’s skeletal system or basic architectural support system is weakened or damaged, it can be a catastrophic issue. Think of it almost in the same way that you think of an automobile with a bent frame. That’s damage that results in insurance companies considering the car “totaled.” Why? The car is basically damaged in such a fundamental way that it won’t ever drive in a straight line again. The good news for homeowners, though, is that homes, unlike vehicles, can be successfully repaired even when they have pretty serious structural issues. But that remedy may wind up costing a substantial amount of money, time, and expert labor.

What to Do Next
Review the inspection report. If there are recommendations for repairs or for a contractor to do a closer evaluation regarding issues the inspector observed, pay close attention to those. If you have questions, talk to the inspector to get clarification. Depending upon what kinds of issues were raised in the report, you should then contact the appropriate kind of qualified contractor and have them give you an estimate for remedying the situation. In some cases, if the problems are particularly serious, your inspector may recommend that you have a specially trained foundation repair contractor or a licensed building engineer diagnose the source of any possible problems.

After Receiving Repair Estimates
When selling a home you can refuse to do the repairs, which may cause the sale to fall apart when the potential buyer backs out of the deal. Or you can pay to have the repairs done to the buyer’s satisfaction and complete the transaction. The third option is to negotiate with the buyer regarding the cost of repairs and who will pay for them. Then, for example, you might deduct those costs from the sales price.

With the third option the buyer usually agrees to do the repairs themselves after they buy the home. In that case the new buyer may also want to hire a home inspector to check the work after it is done and ensure that it meets health, safety, and professional construction and repair standards. 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.

Realtor Advice: How to respond to the interest rate hikes now in progress.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 3:23 pm

In anticipation of a rate hike, we’re already covered the topic of mortgage interest rates and how to prepare your clients for that looming event. But now it’s already a reality, and the Federal Reserve has disclosed its basic strategy for 2016. So now is the time for Realtors and other real estate professionals impacted by the financial markets to update clients about more specific approaches to take in the New Year.

Four Quarters and Four Predictable Hikes
There are likely going to be four rate hikes, including the one that just happened, for a full-year increase of one percent at the Fed level. That could translate into a much higher percentage rate at the retail level – which includes consumer borrowing and home loans. When prevailing interest rates rise, that has a trickle-down impact on other consumer rates. Auto loans get more expensive. Credit card rates go up, and offers for 0% introductory APR or balance transfer rates become more scarce. While that may not directly impact the mortgage market, it can dramatically influence your clients’ ability to qualify for a home loan.

Procrastination Can Be Costly
So even before your clients are ready to buy or refinance, they really need to be working overtime to pay down those other consumer loan balances. Otherwise that shopping hangover from Christmas gift buying and taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday could mean carrying a burdensome balance on their plastic – as the rate they have to pay keeps climbing. Many credit card issuers already hiked their rates and fees, and they keep doing so as long as prevailing rates trend upward.

Do you have clients who have variable rate loans? Find out by talking to them now. They’ll appreciate your proactive concern, because if they do have a variable rate mortgage it is going to get progressively more expensive as rates climb. By alerting them to that fact you could save them a lot of money because they may be able to shift into a fixed rate 15 or 30-year loan.

The Long Term Implications for Borrowers
How much will they thank you in 20 or 30 years? To answer than ponder the math for a moment. Just a 1% rise in interest rates on a 30-year loan for a $250,000 mortgage can add an extra $50,000 in additional interest payments over the life of that loan. That’s enough savings to make a down payment on a vacation home. Whenever discussing mortgage rate planning with clients, use an online mortgage calculator to help them get a clear picture of exactly why a tiny change in their rate can have a gigantic impact on their finances. There are many of those online calculators you can access for free on the Web.

Being a successful Realtor is all about finding ways to engage with your clients or potential customers all year ‘round, and if you become their go-to source for education about the housing markets and answers to other related questions it will reward you better than any slick advertising campaign can. When their friends and colleagues have a real estate question you’ll also be the one who gets the call – which is a wonderful way to organically grow your customer base.

January Homeowner Maintenance Tips for Health and Safety

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 3:21 pm

December turned out to be unseasonably mild in many parts of North America, but experience has taught us that tropical temps in December often give way to frigid conditions as soon as we ring in the New Year. With that in mind, here are some important tips for homeowners to help prepare them to deal with ice and snow to protect their homes, without compromising their own health and safety.

Don’t Overdo It

You may already know – or might be surprised to learn – that the biggest days for heart attacks in the USA are Christmas and New Year’s. It seems that people are in the mood to eat, drink, and be merry on those days – but then they go out and overexert themselves. Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers push tons of snow around, cut and move heavy tree limbs that came down in a holiday blizzard, or get busy removing Christmas ornaments and hauling extra-big amounts of trash to the curb.

If you work like that in the summertime you usually get so hot that you chug plenty of water or at least Gatorade or iced tea. That staves off thirst as well as potentially dangerous dehydration. But in the wintertime that lack of hydration can really sneak up on you. To make it worse, we tend to drink lots of coffee or have some holiday eggnog or a shot of some other liquid warmth to keep us feeling cozy outdoors on a cold day. But those drinks actually rob your body of vital hydration. So the takeaway is this: Don’t work without frequent breaks. Drink a lot of water. It’s okay to take it a little easy – after all, that’s what the holidays are for!

Shoveling Snow

The hardware stores are stocked with lots of wide-bladed metal snow shovels this time of year, but many professionals walk right past those heavy-duty tools and instead buy much lighter shovels made with plastic or polymers. Why? They understand that investing in a metal tool may ensure that it lasts more seasons, because it will wear out slower.

But your body might wear out a whole lot faster. Professionals often advise buying a lightweight snow shovel because it will move snow just as effectively but is easier to maneuver and puts much less strain on your back and arms. So take a tip from the guys who do it for a living, and lighten your load. Those lighter shovels cost less, too, so even if yours has a somewhat shorter life it won’t be that expensive to replace it.

Snow Blower Safety

Of course many homeowners lighten the load considerably by skipping the hand tools and using a motorized snow blower. But what the majority of consumers don’t know is that snow blowers are one of the most potentially dangerous power tools of all. That’s right – they are ranked in the top of the list, with super-hazardous power tools such as chain saws and wood chippers. That’s because if you aren’t careful, very aware, and strict about following manufacturer guidelines you can wind up in a terrible accident.

Yes, it’s gruesome, but we’re talking amputated hands and fingers and even deaths. Nearly 6,000 people will be rushed to emergency rooms across the USA this winter because of injuries related to snow blowers. The biggest mistake? Reaching into the collector or discharge chute while the snow blower is still running. So by all means, always turn the power completely off before trying to free a blockage or anything of that nature. Just as you tell your children, when you go out to play in the snow, play it safe.