June 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Red flags regarding air conditioning systems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:59 am

Whether you are doing a pre-inspection prior to listing your home for sale, or have hired an inspector for a typical buyer-ordered inspection prior to purchasing a home, the air conditioning system will likely come under scrutiny. That’s because heating and air conditioning systems are one of the most important and one of the more expensive mechanical systems in virtually any home.

Buyers tend to be especially concerned about the air conditioning system when they are planning to buy in the summertime, and that’s only natural since they have their comfort over the coming weeks in mind. But no matter what time of year an inspection is done, the inspector may report on the a/c system – and recommend that it, or some of its components, be more closely evaluated by an HVAC professional. Read the report, ask any questions you may have, and then follow whatever recommendations the inspector made.

Common Issues Often Cited in Reports
Since HVAC systems are complex, and cooling can be done in a variety of ways – from heat pumps to stand-alone central air conditioning units to window units or even old-fashioned “swamp cooler” devices, the issues cited can vary. But some of the main ones have to do with ductwork that is inadequate for the size of the home, has cracks or tears in it, or is not hung or installed correctly – which can inhibit air flow. Outdoor central air units may be too small for the square footage of a home, especially if additions to the home were made after the HVAC system was installed.
Then again, something as simple as bushes or trees growing near the outdoor a/c equipment could be a problem, because leaves could be blocking the fan. Or the unit could be rusty, or – and this is very common – not sitting upon the right kind of support. Central air conditioning equipment needs to be elevated, like on a small concrete pad, and not subjected to water runoff that could flood the unit.

Sometimes everything is working fine except for the thermostat, and that may be the kind of problem that can fixed for just a few dollars. Maybe the ductwork needs to be taped to prevent air from leaking, which is usually another easy and affordable fix. Likewise, the a/c filters may just need to be cleaned or replaced, or if you have window units they may need to be more safely supported to prevent them from falling out of the window. They may also be drawing too much electricity for the wall outlet, which might deserve a closer look by an electrician.

An inspector may also raise a red flag if they don’t see a separate circuit breaker, designated only for the central air conditioning unit, when they look inside the electrical breaker box. That often indicates that the work was not done by a qualified HVAC contractor or electrician, or that whoever did the installation failed to get a proper building inspection permit. If that’s the case, you will want to have a qualified HVAC contractor or licensed electrician do a further investigation.

What to Do Next
Whatever the concerns or suggestions in the report may be, you’ll want to pay attention to them, and that may entail hiring an HVAC professional to review any issues and do a closer investigation. If repairs or upgrades are needed, solicit competitive bids from at least three HVAC contractors, and then pick on to do the work. Or, if you are in negotiations for a home sale, you may want to postpone that step and instead have the buyer do the work later, after closing. In that case the seller usually offers cash compensation or lowers the final sales price to cover the estimated cost of repairs. After any repairs or upgrades are done, it is also a good idea to have the home inspector pay a follow-up visit to ensure they were done right and give the home a clean bill of health.

Real Estate Advice: Avoid time-wasting clients to close more sales.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:58 am

The month of June is traditionally a very busy one for open houses and showing appointments. Part of the reason for that is that so many listings go live in the springtime, but if they haven’t attracted enough attention to sell by now, real estate agents schedule an open house to generate new interest. Or they persuade home sellers that their pricing is not in synch with the current market, and sellers agree to more realistic asking prices – which can trigger a flurry of showing appointments.

Prioritize Your Clients
Those two outcomes are both good news for Realtors – as long as they don’t get bogged-down with clients who are time-wasters. What are time-wasters? These are clients who are valuable, but because you don’t manage them appropriately they force you to miss out on the opportunity to sell to clients who are serious and ready to buy.

Clients who are just window shopping are most prevalent in the springtime, when new listings go on the market and curiosity brings out people who may not be ready to buy, but they want to see what is on the market. Don’t overlook those people just because they are merely curious and are not actually serious about buying, however, because they are one of the best sources of leads. Eventually, when they are ready, you want to be their go-to real estate professional.

Stay in touch with them, educate them about how to prepare for a mortgage application or get pre-qualified, and keep them informed about price changes, new listings, and data that demonstrates why it may cost them more to rent than to invest in buying a home of their own. Make sure they are in your marketing funnel, in other words, but not necessarily in your office or in your car.

Maximize Your Value to Your Clients
What you don’t want to do is to let that category of not-so-serious shoppers distract you from closing sales in the summer months. Those who are newer to the real estate business need to pay especially close attention to this, because they are especially susceptible. We are talking about the kind of buyers who are notorious for attending open houses only to see how big their neighbor’s closets are, or to eat whatever snacks are offered and engage in conversation that will never lead to a sale. Oftentimes serious buyers will come and go while a real estate agent is preoccupied with those who are only window shopping. The same is true for people who call to go see properties – you have to spend time with those who are more likely to buy, and avoid the casual lookers.

Pre-Screen Each Client
How do you do that? Get into the habit of screening everyone, before you give them your valuable time. Ask them three questions:

1. How soon do you want to list your home or buy a home?
2. If you are thinking of buying, have you spoken to a mortgage lender yet?
3. If so, have you been pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan?

Based on their answers prioritize your time with them accordingly:
• If they want to buy but haven’t talked to a lender, guide them to that next step – before showing them homes on the market in their price range.

• If they are working with a lender, make sure they are pre-qualified or, better yet, pre-approved – before you take them out to actually tour homes and consider writing a purchase offer.

• If they are pre-qualified and ready to buy, then focus your efforts on finding them the right home – and closing a sale.
Why it’s Best for You and for Your Clients
You’ll save clients time and help them avoid the disappointment of having a loan request or offer rejected, or having to undergo long delays when trying to buy a home. You will also ensure that they have the best possible opportunity to buy a home that fits their finances and their vision of a dream home. You’ll help them submit a more competitive offer, with a better chance of being accepted – even when there are multiple offers on the same property. Meanwhile you will save yourself time, so you can focus on your clients, based on intelligent priorities, and enjoy better time management that free up more of your time for client service.

June 1, 2016

Home Maintenance Tips: Keep cool and conserve energy.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:56 am

June is here, and meteorologists everywhere are already citing record high temperatures in many regions. To ensure your home doesn’t leak the cool air you are paying for, that your air conditioning system is in optimum working condition, and that you keep your home cool and comfortable even when the a/c is not on, here are a few timely home maintenance tips.

Use Blinds and Shades
As much as 30% of the heat that warms the rooms of your home is solar heat that comes in through the windows. That means that if you use your blinds and curtains more strategically during the summer, you can reduce the cost of cooling your home dramatically. But you don’t have to live in the dark, either. You can simply shade windows on the side of the house that is getting the most direct sunlight in the morning. Then, when the sun moves away from them, open them and let in the light. If the sun hits the opposite side of your home in the afternoon, then close the window coverings on that side until the sun goes down.

Don’t Set the Thermostat Too Low
Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. Don’t try to make the a/c work harder just because you feel too warm or the house has gotten hot and stuffy. That won’t help since it will not cool your home any faster and will likely result in the a/c system working harder and cooling your home more than necessary – which lowers the mercury but raises the cost of cooling your home.

Upgrade to LED Bulbs
Many consumers have been reluctant to upgrade from incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient ones, because those old fashioned light bulbs are cheaper to buy. But they aren’t cheaper to use, so upgrading is not just good for the environment but it is also good for your utility bills. Did you know that only about 12% of the electricity used by an incandescent bulb goes into generating light or illumination? That’s true. The other 85-90% only generates heat. That means that every room of the house has heat sources working in the summertime. If you upgrade to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs they cost more to buy but last longer and do not generate that unwanted heat.

Invest in a Better Thermostat
You should set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer, because even a few degrees can add up to hundreds of dollars worth of utility bills. But the problem is that most people keep turning the a/c on and off to adjust it, and each time the unit has to power-up again that also uses up extra electricity. The most efficient way to manage your HVAC setting is with a programmable or “smart” thermostat, which can adapt to your lifestyle while also managing the a/c system to ensure optimum functioning at the lowest possible cost.

Take Advantage of Fans
Set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise in the summertime, so that airflow will push air downward and keep cooling the warmer air as it rises toward the ceiling. If you use the exhaust fans in your bathroom after a hot bath, and be sure to run them in the kitchen when you’re cooking, that will also cool the house and ultimately save on utility bills – since fans are cheaper to run than air conditioning units.