May 1, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Masonry problems and what they mean.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:54 am

Many buyers and sellers who order inspection reports will find that the inspector has pointed out potential issues with masonry. Oftentimes these items are flagged in the report for further evaluation and possible repair by a qualified masonry contractor. There are lots of different problems that may warrant a closer look by a masonry specialist – in order to sure the safety of your home as well as its healthy functioning.

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 example, bricks or blocks that have deteriorating mortar joints or that are misaligned in a way that is causing gravity to weaken a structure. Moisture could be a problem, and oftentimes masonry surfaces like walls that are not properly sealed can wick water toward the interior of your home. Then again, a brick wall or similar structure could have inadequate drainage built into its base, so that water behind that wall cannot escape and simply presses against it or drains beneath it to erode the earth that it rests upon. You may have a chimney that has voids where heat can escape, or a sidewalk or driveway made of concrete that is pitting and cracking.

Is a retaining wall leaning the wrong way, and no longer supporting the terrain it is supposed to keep in check? Maybe if you sight along an exterior wall you can see it curving or bulging in a way that indicates a lack of structural integrity or potentially hazardous shifting. There are other instances where the foundation of the home, supported by columns of bricks or blocks, is not sturdy enough, or where a concrete countertop in a kitchen is too heavy to be supported by the structure it rests upon. Are stone, brick, or concrete steps leading to your home not providing secure, safe footing underneath, or are they in need of repair?

What to Do Next
As you can see, the list of possible inspection report red flags can be varied. But whatever issues your inspector wants to bring to your attention will be highlighted in the report, with comments and maybe photographs. Take those seriously, but don’t be alarmed. Just ask the inspector if you need any clarification and follow the recommendations they have outlined. Usually that involves having a masonry contractor take a closer look and, if necessary, recommend any remedies or repairs. If repairs are needed, request bids from at least three contractors, compare the bids, and take whatever follow-up actions are needed.

Follow-Up Procedures
If repairs are done, have those taken care of by your masonry contractor and then the buyer and seller will want to negotiate the cost. The seller will usually do repairs 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 the repair work is finished, 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 Tips: Leverage social media this spring.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:53 am

Almost all buyers these days first do research online before going out to shop for a home, and homeowners who are thinking of listing their property typically do their own background research, too. Buyers and sellers study current MLS listings, they check comparable recent sales data, they search for tax and appraisal valuations, and they also do extensive homework regarding mortgage and refinancing options. Of course it’s not just the real estate industry. Consumers of all kinds of products typically first compare prices and do background research online before they are ready to buy. Since all of your clients already live online as everyday consumers – and they also tend to socialize online and make business connections that way, too – it is essential that you have a strong and attractive social media presence. How do you do that? Here are some helpful tips that will allow you to boost your online brand presence during this active buying and selling season in the real estate industry.

Engage, Don’t Sell
Avoid the tendency to simply sell your services through social media. Instead, perform a service via the social media platforms that are popular with your target audience. By demonstrating that you are eager to offer real value as a way to interact and develop professional relationships with potential clients, you give them a valid reason to engage with you – and engagement is the name of the game.

Be a Content Curator
You know that your potential customers are already spending hours and hours online researching real estate market information, whether they are buying, selling, refinancing, or looking for income or vacation property. Capitalize on that fact by making that research easier for them. Spend time gathering the kinds of resources they are already searching for, and then present that information and knowledge to them in an organized, convenient way. You’ll become their go-to resource for all things real estate related, so instead of visiting the blogs and websites of your competitors they will follow you on social media.

Examples of Attractive Content
You can use platforms like Facebook or your own blog, for example, to post recent sales data or marketing trends in the neighborhoods you target. Or write blog articles to share the kind of knowledge and tips that buyers and sellers are wanting to know. You can write articles, for instance, about how inspections work, what tax valuations do not say about market value, or about how to generate curb appeal. Explain how to get pre-qualified for a loan, and how that differs from getting pre-approved. Ask them to send their real estate questions to you, and then answer them on Facebook or your own blog. There are countless ways to make yourself helpful to potential clients by teaching them – and that will position you as the expert to call when they need real estate services.

Delegate the Busy Work
Real estate pros are usually challenged by time constraints, and keeping up with social media can seem like a daunting time management task. But you can hire someone, like a college student, to manage your social media feeds for you. Then all you have to do is give them the information and they can continue to push it out to those who follow you on social media platforms. You can – and should – also re-purpose the same content across multiple platforms. Take a question someone asks and tweet it, with a link to the answer. Or take a short quote from a longer blog and tweet that. Post snippets from blogs on LinkedIn or Facebook, or Instagram photos that illustrate the content you want to promote.
Soon you’ll have a cohesive and active pipeline of fresh content on multiple social media platforms, to keep you name and brand in front of your customers and potential clients, 24/7.

Home Maintenance: Expert techniques for your DIY painting.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 10:51 am

Springtime is a great season for house painting, whether you are touching up faded areas or adding some color and vibrancy to a room. But many homeowners find the process frustrating and messy, and knowing a few unique tips and techniques can make the work go much easier and look better.

Clean It
One step that many homeowners skip or just aren’t aware of is gently washing the walls prior to applying paint. You aren’t going to wash it and scrub them, but simply use a damp cellulose sponge to prep the surface. Just rub that sponge down the walls using a solution of water with just a tiny amount of dishwashing liquid.

Don’t make the water soapy, though, because you don’t want to make bubbles and leave a soapy film on the wall. Just a few tiny drops is all you need, since dishwashing soap can help make dirt cling to the wet sponge. What this damp sponge rub-down accomplishes is removal of any grease, dirt, dust, lint, or cobwebs that could interfere with a great paint job. You’ll start with a clean canvas, so to speak, to apply the paint neatly and evenly.

Drop It
Speaking of canvas, that’s the way to go for drop cloth material Although they may be cheap and sound like a good idea, it is not recommended that you use those drop cloths that are coated in a smooth plastic – or any kind of drop cloth that is made of plastic – by itself. In other words, if water will flow off the surface of the cloth, it’s not ideal. You can use those underneath a traditional canvas drop cloth to protect your carpets and floors, but you should always have the cloth that will catch paint spills be the absorbent kind made of sturdy, thick canvas.

The fact is, if you use a thick, heavy-duty canvas drop cloth you don’t need to have anything else underneath it to capture ordinary spills. You’d only need the added protection of plastic if you had a major accident, like spilling a whole tray or bucket of paint. The reason canvas is better than non-absorbent materials like plastic is that it will soak up the paint droplets – which will otherwise drain off along wrinkles in the cloth and wind up flowing onto the floor. Or it will pool into puddles that remain on the surface and get all over your shoes. Then you wind up tracking paint all over the house.

Cut and Roll
Start the painting of your room by going to a corner of the ceiling, where you will use a trim brush to paint a 3-4 inch strip – cutting into the ceiling where the ceiling meets the wall. From that cut-in section, use a roller to paint deeper into the ceiling. Alternate these steps, cutting into the ceiling with a brush and then rolling a section, painting only enough of the ceiling to move the wet edge deeper into it where it will be easy to roll larger areas. Once you have the perimeter painted in this way, roll on the rest, blending the lines as you overlap.

Next, cut in the walls using your trim brush, and trim around windows and doorways in a similar fashion, just to establish a nice neat edge and to get a margin of paint on the those trickier areas before you break out the less precise roller. Then you are ready to fill in the rest with a roller. A good technique is to paint small sections, one at a time, so that you concentrate on a 3-foot by 3-feet area, which keeps you working at arm’s length. Then move over and continue in that fashion until you’re done. Many experts like to first paint a big W or M inside that 3X3 space and then fill in the gaps, because that can help ensure more smooth, even, and seamless coverage.

The final step is to apply your trim paint. You may want to switch from a matte or semi-gloss for the trim, and use a glossier paint, if those are high-contract and high-traffic areas where a higher gloss paint is easier to clean to remove smudges and fingerprints. Paint follows gravity, so trim from the top of the door or window frame toward the floor – not from the bottom brushing upward.

Freeze and Thaw
By the way, if you cannot finish the job in one session, you can save some time with clean-up by just wrapping your wet brushes and rollers in plastic kitchen wrap, or tossing them into a plastic bag, and putting them in the freezer. You can even do that with your roller trays. Just remove most of the paint beforehand by pouring it back into the can. When you are ready to start painting again, remove the items from the freezer and let them thaw for 20-30 minutes. You can keep using that trick until you are finally finished with your project and are ready to fully clean your rollers, brushes, and trays.