March 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Red flags for floors in homes.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 3:51 pm

If you are having a home inspection in preparation for putting it on the market or are a buyer who ordered a home inspection to evaluate the condition of a property, the inspector may flag the floors within the report. Sometimes an inspection will reveal visible symptoms that the inspector believes warrant further investigation by a qualified contractor or flooring professional. In that case the report will mention those and recommend that you have the potential issue evaluated in more depth, and you should always heed these suggestions from your inspector. Don’t be alarmed, because some potential problems have really easy solutions. But do take the report seriously, because if the issues turn out to be serious they could impact your health and safety, as well as the value of the home.

Common Issues with Floors

• One issue that often surprises homeowners or buyers is when the inspection reports asks for an environmental inspector to evaluate the flooring materials for the presence of asbestos. But in older homes it was not uncommon for the linoleum-style flooring tiles to be made with asbestos fibers, which used to be added to give building materials more structural strength and durability.

• The problem, of course, is that if those fibers become dislodged they can get into the air and, when breathed, pose a serious health hazard. That can occur, for instance, if a tile is broken or if you break up the flooring in order to remove it or put a new floor on top of that old one.

• With ceramic tile floors, there may be tiles that are cracked, which typically occurs because the tiles are not completely level when they are installed, or because the adhesive used to install them has gaps or voids in it. Not only can this create trouble because those tiles can crumble or just look unsightly, but ceramic is a type of glass. If you have cracks, even tiny ones, the edges may protrude enough to cause cuts if you walk on them barefoot. That’s also a tripping hazard.

• Another telltale sign of problems is warping, particularly with wooden floors, because that normally happens when water seeps into the wood. It could be from flooding of the room or it could indicate that a plumbing leak has caused water to migrate underneath wooden flooring or into the wooden supports or sub-flooring beneath the floor.

• If the home has wall-to-wall carpeting, then the inspector may point out issues such as threadbare sections, rips, or wrinkles in the carpet that might pose tripping hazards. This is particularly common when stairs have been carpeted but have come loose or were not properly secured during original installation.

• Another issue related to flooring is the architectural molding attached where the flooring – regardless of what kind of flooring or floor covering it is – meets the walls. Oftentimes it is called “quarter round” molding, depending upon the particular profile or shape of the molding, and people may consider it a decorative touch. Moldings can certainly add to the visual appeal of the decor, but the ones where floors meet walls also help to secure the flooring so it doesn’t curl up, move, or leave flooring nails exposed that could injure someone.

What to Do Next
Read the report and if you have any questions or need clarification about anything, ask your inspector. When flooring issues have been identified, follow the recommendations – which usually advise that you call the appropriate flooring specialist or contractor and have them take a closer look. They can identify the extent of any problems and explain remedies. In some cases the repairs may be very simple and easy, but in other situations the outward symptoms may represent more complicated problems that necessitate work that extends beyond the flooring. If repairs are needed you should solicit written bids from 3 or 4 contactors.

When Repairs Are Needed
If repairs are warranted and the inspection was for a pending sale, the buyer and seller will have to decide whether they need to be done prior to closing or whether they can be postponed. They will also need to negotiate regarding any costs for repairs that are necessary. Normally either the buyer will pay them or they will give a discount to the seller to offset that expense, unless both parties agree to another financial arrangement. It is also a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up inspection to ensure that whatever repairs were done are adequate and were completed in a professional manner.

Real Estate Tips: Define yourself rather than having the market define you in the coming year.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 3:49 pm

There are lots of industries that are cyclical in nature. The retail sectors is steady most months but then experiences a dramatic surge during the year-end holidays. Auto sales ramp-up when the new models come on the market. But in the residential real estate niche, the year typically begins anew every spring. That’s because people shop for homes – and sell their homes – when the weather is nice and warm. Over the decades spring has offered lots of surprises for Realtors. Some years it shows a downturn that forecasts bigger trouble ahead. In other years it can jump-start the real estate economy with significantly higher prices right out of the gate. But if you want to really drill-down to hit the ground running as a provider of real estate services, focus on who you are, versus what the market or economy is doing, and refine your specialization.

That could mean that you need to reevaluate your education and add new skills and knowledge to your toolkit. Or maybe instead of working with both buyers and sellers, you should consider becoming an exclusive buyer’s agent – or shifting into property management, relocation services, or a career path that involves primarily working with builders and developers. There are some Realtors who are great educators, and they segue into careers working in partnership with the National Association of Realtors as trainers and seminar leaders or they open their own real estate licensing school.

Are you an agent, but are ready to step up to the next level and get your broker’s license, to either work more independently or open your very own real estate brokerage company? You could also go to work for a bank handling their REO listings, for a commercial enterprise taking care of their office leases, or for investors scouting out the best deals to add properties to their portfolios.

The point is, you do not have to stay in the same niche that you were when you started out in the profession. That’s one of the wonderful aspects of real estate – it offers lateral as well as upward mobility opportunities. People and their personal and professional goals change over time, so it’s a healthy idea to take an inventory this time of year – before launching into another busy season – not just of your listings and hot leads on clients but of your career goals and needs, financial objectives, talents, and desires. Take a good look at where you are now in the real estate business, and where you dream of being in three, five, or 10 years from now.
What steps can you take this year to help you move closer to realizing those short or long-range objectives? Are there areas where you want to achieve a healthier or more rewarding work/life balance? Is your goal to continue the kind of real estate work you’ve been doing, but serve a more affluent clientele or build your own portfolio of income-producing properties to create a retirement nest egg? Maybe you want to work with low-income clients to ensure that they can also have their chance at home ownership, or you want to start contributing some of your expertise in real estate as a volunteer for a local nonprofit that provides financial guidance and helps people learn about the home buying process.
You are really only limited by your imagination and desire when it comes to this kind of planning. Before the tulips and daffodils are in full bloom and your phone is ringing like crazy with calls from buyers and sellers ready to take advantage of springtime 2016, pause for a few days to do a gut check and some soul searching. Write down your goals. See how they align with your current activities and plans. Then line yourself up with those dreams and make this the year you start making them come true in ways that will really have a tangible impact on you and your loved ones.

Homeowner Tips: Prepare for March Winds

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 3:48 pm

Most parts of North America may still be hunkering down in the cold, even as other regions are warm enough for homeowners to start planting gardens. Regardless of what the temperatures are like where you are, though, chances are you’ll be exposed to stronger than normal winds. Those can take a toll on your home and do damage – or even create safety hazards, if you are not prepared. Already in February there were unusually early tornadoes across the USA, for instance, that caused havoc, destruction, and deaths. So here are some home maintenance tips to help you get ready for March weather.

Check Trees for Loose Limbs
Use a pair of binoculars to check the tree for dead, rotten, or dislodged limbs. You’ll need to hire an arborist to safely remove those, because it needs to be done in a way that is also not going to cause unnecessary damage or disease to your valuable trees. Hiring unqualified people to do tree work can cause more harm than good, because if they trim the tree incorrectly it can kill the whole tree.

Since you’ll need arborist anyway to help to tend to any potentially hazardous limbs, it may be simpler and easier to just call an arborist and have them do the check for dead and rotten limbs. Their trained eyes will spot trouble easier than you can, even if you have binoculars. They can also provide you with a written estimate for remedying any problems they may find.

Observe the Roof, Safely
Hold on to those binoculars to check your roof, too, because it is not worth the risk to climb up on a high roof on a ladder. Every year homeowners are seriously injured or die from falls because they venture onto a roof. You can see whatever you need to from a safe vantage point using binoculars, and you’ll want to look for any stray limbs on the roof as well as missing, damaged, or badly curled or loose shingles or flashing around dormers and chimneys.
If you spot any trouble areas, have a roofing contractor do a closer investigation and perform any needed repairs. As long as your roof is in overall good shape, mending a few shingles will be relatively inexpensive – whereas leaving vulnerabilities heading into windy and rainy weather could be risk for leaking, which can become very costly and require both roof repairs and interior repairs to your home.

Review Your Emergency Plans
Every season it is a good idea to review and update your family’s emergency protocols. For winter you may have planned for a blizzard. But with spring arriving you should put away the ice melt, snow shovels, and space heaters and check to be sure that your fire extinguishers are charged, your smoke detectors are in good working order, and you have at least a 3-day supply of fresh water stored for emergencies. Make sure adults know how to turn off the plumbing, natural gas, and electricity if there is an emergency and that you have a safe room or basement where you can shelter in place in case of extremely high winds or a tornado.

Get Ready to Enjoy Springtime
If you haven’t already done so, it is also a good idea to give all your vehicles a good wash, especially on the undercarriage. That way the corrosive salts or other chemicals used as ice melt on the roadways in wintertime won’t continue to corrode the metal on the underside of your car or truck. Replace HVAC filters with new, clean ones, and start making your checklists for springtime flower bed maintenance and preparations for outdoor grilling and recreation.