April 1, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Why windows, skylights, and screens do matter.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:48 am

Many buyers and sellers who order inspection reports will find that the inspector has included mentions of windows, skylights, and window screens. Oftentimes these items are flagged in the report for further evaluation, repair, or replacement by a contractor or other qualified professional. But there are buyers and sellers who may wonder why something as minor as a cracked windowpane or torn screen, for example, warrants that kind of attention. They may question why is can arise as an inspection report issue that even has the potential to delay the closing of a home sale.

Common Issues
There are a number of issues that may be flagged in a written inspection report, whether it was ordered by a home owner to get better insight into their home’s condition before listing and selling it – or by a prospective buyer wanting similar information prior to closing.

Common ones include, for windows, cracked or missing panes. That’s a problem because obviously absent window glass lets the outdoor elements inside. But even a crack can be an issue because it represents a hazard. Run your hand across it and you can get cut, even if the crack is barely noticeable. Cracks also lead energy, and they can cause a windowpane to shatter due to force exerted through the window unit upon opening or closing. Shattered glass that happens unexpectedly can offer all kinds of hazards.

If the frame of the window – the part than encases it – is structurally unsound or if the locks and other hardware don’t work properly – or if the window is stuck or otherwise doesn’t function smoothly for opening and closing, those are issues worthy of repair.

That goes for the framework of skylights, too, as does the point that a cracked or broken glass on a skylight is both a safety hazard and an easy way for energy – like heating and air conditioning – to escape. The most common problem with skylights, though, is leaking, especially around their frame.

Skylights are basically an intentional hole in your roof that has been filled with a special type of window. Whenever your roof has a hole, it has to be filled in a way that makes it perfectly sealed and tight. So the inspector who notices that the skylight may be leaking will flag it, so that if needed you can have it properly caulked, sealed, or reinstalled.

With screens, the frames can become warped so that the screen doesn’t really fit the window gap, and that means the screen is ineffective. Flies can get in through that wobbly frame, for example, just as they can enter through a rip in the screen. So can other insects. That’s a big reason why window screens are actually designed to protect your health, and if they are flagged by an inspector as not fully functioning, they need to be attended to in order to ensure your health and safety.

What to Do Next
If any issues pertaining to windows, skylights, or screens are mentioned in the inspection report, take those seriously. When you have any questions or need clarification, just as the inspector. Then follow whatever recommendations they have outlined. Usually that involves having a window specialist or other professional evaluate the items and make appropriate suggestions for repairs or other solutions. Ask for bids from at least three contractors, unless it is an easy DIY task such as buying a window screen and installing it. Then compare the bids and take whatever action is necessary to remedy any potential problems.

Follow-Up Procedures
If repairs or replacements are needed, have those taken care of and then the buyer and seller will want to negotiate the cost. The seller will usually do the repair prior to closing. In some circumstances they may also pay cash at closing or reduce the sales price to help accommodate the expense of the buyer doing the repair at a later date. At any rate, solicit 2-4 competing bids to figure out your actual costs. After repairs, upgrades, or replacements of windows, screens, or skylights it is always a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up visit to look over the work and give it a clean bill of health or make further recommendations as needed.

Real Estate Advice for the Start of Spring

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:46 am

Real estate professionals who hit the ground running in April can set the tone for the rest of their year, because early springtime is the best time to cultivate new leads, solidify relationships with buyers and sellers, and generate the income and momentum that guarantees a successful year.

One of the most significant trends for 2016 is that staging homes that are listed for sale has transitioned from a rare and obscure practice – usually reserved for special listings – into a rather common and mainstream marketing tactic. That means two things for those real estate agents and homeowners who are competing to sell listings. On the one hand, it makes the curb appeal and interior cosmetic appearance of your listing much more significant, because homes that don’t look their best may look downright shabby compared to ones that are professionally staged.

The second important point for Realtors to understand is that the prevalence of staged homes, or homes that are designed to look like model homes, gives you a greater opportunity to convince sellers that they need to stage their listings. In the past it has been a difficult step to convince homeowners of, because many considered it superfluous, too expensive or labor intensive, or they were convinced that their homes already looked spectacular – even if they lacked general curb appeal in the eyes of buyers. Now there is plenty of evidence to show why it helps. There is also stiff competition to ensure that if homeowners don’t take advantage of this powerful marketing tool they may lose out on sales as buyers instead write offers on other homes in the neighborhood.

That all works in your favor as a Realtor, because the more your sellers support your marketing efforts, the faster your listings will sell and the higher the prices they sell for will be. A big part of success as a Realtor is to educate sellers in order to make your own job easier. When sellers are realistic about pricing, showing, and negotiating, it increases the chance of a sale. Those real estate professionals who are expert at teaching clients to be more realistic – and helping them understand why it matters – always close more sales and get more referral business.

Tax time is here, too, and that offers Realtors yet another window of opportunity to educate clients about how they can save money on their taxes by buying instead of renting, or by investing in income-producing property. You can also talk to potential sellers about how to keep a paper trail of their eligible expenses, so that when they do sell they can lower their capital gains. explaining the benefits of financial savings they can be eligible for if they become homeowners can encourage them to buy – especially if they have been “sitting on the fence” and pondering the idea without acting on it.

Every homeowner’s tax situation will be unique and they should consult a tax advisor being making any tax-related home buying decisions. But buyers may be able to deduct mortgage interest payments, for example, which can add up to thousands of dollars per year. Sellers may be eligible to reduce their capital gains tax by deducting legal expenses related to their purchase and sale – including the real estate agent’s commission fee – and by deducting the cost of capital improvements to the property. Those who buy income producing property, such as rental property, can usually deduct a long list of expenses related to management and upkeep of the property. That may even include regular travel to check on a property, so if a client buys a rental condo at the beach, for example, they may be able to legitimately deduct summer trips to the beach – as long as they perform some landlord-related tasks while there and keep a paper trail to document that tax-deductable activity.

The idea is to constantly think of ways to share value-adding information with your clients or prospective clients, because then they will naturally rely on you as their go-to real estate expert, and refer you to others in that way. You’ll develop more multidimensional relationships with your clients, and that will naturally grow your business and your reputation as the real estate agent to call when it is time to buy, sell, or ask a question about real estate

Home Maintenance for April: Spring cleaning can improve your health.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:43 am

One of the most longstanding home maintenance traditions, across all cultures, is a deep cleaning when the weather warms up after a cold winter. The first chance to open up your home and rid of accumulated clutter, dust, and grime is a natural response to springtime, and a spring cleaning can have a dramatic visible effect while also being emotionally uplifting. What we often overlook, though, is that spring cleaning is also one of the most important steps you can take to ensure better health and quality of life for you and your family. That’s why it’s a fantastic idea to schedule a spring cleaning weekend this time of year.

Intense Allergens
There are unseen threats to your health dust mites and pet dander than gather on window coverings, carpets, and upholstery while your home is closed-up and you’re hunkered down during the cold months. When spring comes, along with a significant elevation of the pollen count as plants bloom and flower, those allergens can conspire to make you really sick. But if you steam clean your rugs and carpets, vacuum your house especially well, and then wipe down everything – the ceiling fans, walls, floors, blinds, and furnishings – you can get rid of those annoying mites and the sneeze-triggering dander.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms
Believe it or not, we spend about half of our life in bedrooms and bathrooms, and doing a deep-clean of bedding is really important to do at least once a year. Wash everything in hot water with a little added bleach, clean the blankets and put them away for summer storage in plastic containers, and remove anything under the beds and clean beneath them with a vengeance. Then attack the bathrooms, keeping in mind that because they are also rooms with high humidity and moisture, they are virtual laboratories for breeding mold, mildew, and mites.

Empty the shelves and drawers and wipe everything clean with disinfectant, and consider replacing any shower curtains that are getting a little drab. Check for leaky faucets and pipes, which can lead to mold, and clean out the sink drain’s trap because it is probably clogged with hair. If you spot mold growth, scrub it off with detergent and water. Don’t use chlorine bleach to kill it without completely removing it. Why is that important? Most people don’t know that even dead mold can still trigger allergies and cause illness.

The Kitchen and Pantry
Clean the places that usually get neglected in the kitchen, such as behind the oven and fridge where dust and grime can accumulate. While you’re at it, clean the refrigerator coils so that it works more efficiently. If you store recyclables like paper bags that can attract roaches, make sure they are in airtight containers with secure lids. Clean out the pantry and wash it down, and don’t forget to clean and dust on top of your cabinetry as well as the fridge, because those are places where allergens often accumulate but go unnoticed.

Basements, Attics, and Garages
Clutter removal and reorganization is the name of the game in places that are mostly used for storage, but don’t forget to check for moisture, which can be fertile ground for mold and mildew. Look especially closely near sources of water such as plumbing pipes that run across the ceiling and could point to mildew on the ceiling; sinks and the walls behind them; and exterior walls that could be improperly sealed and letting moisture migrate or weep into your home’s interior.

In all of your rooms a coat of paint with a good mildew-resistant primer is a great idea, and can make your home look brighter and newer. If you decide to paint, give yourself plenty of time for caulking, because the effort you put into sealing those little crevices and gaps will make the paint job look more professional and will also make your home more energy efficient. That will pay you back all summer by keeping that costly air conditioning inside instead of letting it leak into the great outdoors.