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.

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.

February 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Potential plumbing problems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 3:42 pm

February means a deep freeze across most of North America, and that typically leads to plumbing-related problems that may get red-flagged by a home inspector. There may be outdated pipe, inadequate water pressure, clogging, or a water heater without enough capacity. Or the issue mentioned in the report could be as minor as a leaking faucet or a toilet that needs a new flushing mechanism installed.

Keep in mind that the inspector’s job is to observe what could potentially be problems, and then convey those professional observations to the client through the written inspection report. When an inspection report discloses an issue it will usually be accompanied by a recommendation to have it further evaluated by a qualified plumber. Only after this kind of more intensive investigation will you know the extent of the problem, if indeed there is one, so don’t worry or jump to conclusions until you’ve had an opportunity to consult a plumber.

Common Plumbing Issues
The particular issues are noted in your report will depend on unique circumstances, but some of the most common plumbing symptoms that show up on inspection reports are related to pipe materials, the integrity of the plumbing, and equipment that works with plumbing to provide services to your household.

• This time of year, a pipe may have burst or sprung a leak that is relatively minor but could lead to bigger problems down the road. Sometimes that is a minor repair and you will want to also wrap insulation around the pipe to prevent freezing and cracking in the future. In other cases the damage could be extensive and require replacement of a section of plumbing plus repair from any water damage that resulted from the leak.

• Oftentimes inspectors find that home, especially ones that are older and have had additions and improvements that expand their size or increase demand for water, have outdated capacity. You may need to update the plumbing to restore water pressure, for instance, or replace a small water heater with a larger one or augment that appliance with an additional water heater.

• Homes that are heated with water – such as boilers that produce steam released through radiators – may be in need of repairs or updates to the boiler system, which has some plumbing components.

• Toilets that don’t stop running may need simple DIY repairs, and the same goes for dripping faucets. If drains are not working as intended, they may simply need a good cleaning. Then again, poor drainage may be a symptom that roots or other obstacles are blocking main plumbing arteries – and that is more substantial issue to solve.

• Oftentimes the materials that plumbing pipes are made out of are out of date, and that could require minor or major replacement of pipes. When iron pipes in older homes begin to corrode, for instance, they can rust and fall apart. Similarly, copper pipes and connectors popular in the 1960s sometimes corrode and need to be replaced.

What to Do Next
The next thing to do is to ask any questions you may have of the inspector, and then contact any plumbers other experts that your inspector may have recommended who should have a closer look. They can do a deeper investigation and diagnosis the source of whatever symptoms the inspector noticed. Study bids from at least three qualified professionals, pick the one that seems the most reasonable for the value delivered, and then schedule the repairs – unless you are in the process of selling your home and the buyer wants to handle any necessary repairs themselves. Have the Realtor negotiate with the other party to decide who will pay for the repairs and when they will be completed.

Negotiating Repairs
Sometimes the seller will not do the repair, for instance, but will offer a sales price discount or give cash at closing to the buyer to cover the repair cost. In other situations the buyer may want the repair done before closing, and the buyer and seller will need to reach a fair agreement regarding how soon they will be finished. Traditionally the seller pays for the repairs in that case, but that is also a point that can be negotiated. In the case of an “as-is” sale, for example, the buyer agrees to buy the home in its present condition, without any modifications or repairs.

Following Up Afterward
If you do order repairs done, it is always a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up visit after the plumbing contractors have finished their work. Your inspector can then recheck the plumbing system and ensure that the repair work that was properly executed.

Real Estate Tips: Create a Listing Client Checklist

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 3:40 pm

In previous generations, real estate agents and brokers were the only people who knew the critical information and marketing data to facilitate a home purchase or sale. Those days are long gone, though, thanks to the advent of the Information Age and digital communication. Anyone, anywhere, with very little technical know-how or knowledge of mortgage finance, real estate, or home values can access reams of information in an instant, via the Internet. That includes coveted MLS data that used to be the proprietary treasure trove of the Realtor community. To succeed in this kind of environment and still distinguish your value as a real estate pro who is worthy of fair compensation, you have to become an active partner for your clients – the person they turn to for knowledge, education, and strategy they won’t find by doing a Google search late at night.

The Spring Selling Season Starts Now
One thing that most home sellers fail to understand, for example, is that the springtime selling season that all sellers look forward to does not being in spring. Yes, spring is still the traditionally busy season for home sales, that time when buyers historically come out of the woodwork and start snapping up listings. But if a seller wants to participate in that first wave of the year and they wait until the daffodils bloom to call a Realtor, they run the risk of missing the boat. By the time their home is actually market-ready and in its best showing condition, springtime buyers will already be at the closing table and unloading their furniture from moving vans.

Successful Marketing Requires Lead-Time
Do your clients a favor, and use the few remaining weeks of winter to school them about how to prepare to seize the moment as soon as weather warms. You’ll also be doing yourself a favor, because your listings will go live already prepped to sell at the highest possible price – while your competitors and their homeowner clients are still scrambling around to do cosmetic improvements, last-minute repairs, and critical curb appeal makeovers. They need to have a pre-listing inspection done ASAP, for example, so that they can contact contractors, handymen, and landscape crews and get any needed projects scheduled on the calendars of those professionals before the end of the month. If they procrastinate until mid-March or early April they may not be able to locate a quality contractor who charges a reasonable rate who is available before mid-May or June.

Make an Attractive Debut
That means their home cannot be ready to sell with an optimum marketing plan before summer, and they’ll totally miss out on the brisk spring sales momentum. Have you ever toured a new listing and noticed that the house did not show well, simply because the homeowner and real estate agent had not yet taken the time to get it completely ready for prime time? You probably walked away less than impressed, and weren’t surprised if you saw the listing languish on the market and go through a round of cuts to the asking price. When a home debuts on the market and does not look its best, buyers don’t put their plans on hold and then come back a month or two later to see it dressed to the nines. You don’t get a second chance at a good first impression. Help your clients get ahead of the curve, and the competition. They’ll reward you by telling all their friends and colleagues that you are the kind of real estate professional who truly earns your commission.

Homeowner Maintenance: New home maintenance gadgets & tools.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 3:38 pm

Residential home improvement spending was in decline for the past few years, partly because of a constricted economy and high levels of unemployment. Now economists predict that in 2016 that trend will be reversed. According to a report just published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, home improvement activity will nearly double during the first half of the year, and both recent home buyers and owners who have been in their homes for a long time will fuel this change. One of the indicators the researchers noticed was an uptick in spending on home improvement products. So here is an overview of a few of the newer, more innovative home maintenance gadgets that are now on the market, to help you shop for smart tools to make home maintenance easier and more efficient.

The Right Drill for the Job
The pros at the home improvement TV show This Old House suggest that you forget about using an 18-volt cordless drill, and instead go with a lightweight 12-volt model. Not only is it smaller, it lets you work a lot longer before your hand and arm tire out. But you don’t have to sacrifice power because today’s lithium-ion drills are more efficient, and have all the power you need for most home maintenance projects.

• The Ryobi company also has a new cordless screwdriver, dubbed the Quick Turn, which instantly converts from a traditional pistol grip into a horizontally aligned inline screwdriver. That makes it much more flexible for working in tight or odd-shaped spaces.

• If you are frustrated with losing your hand tools while working in dimly light and dark spaces like closets, basements, or under the sink, invest in some of the pliers, screwdrivers, and other basic tools made by Klein – from its Glow in the Dark collection. They have handles that glow in the dark – a simple innovation that can make a pleasantly big difference if you’re working under lightless conditions such as during an electrical power failure this winter.

• Meanwhile Hammerhead has come out with a handheld cordless rechargeable screwdriver with built-in LED work lights, a wire-bending hole and wire stripper, a magnetic bit holder, and a unique safety feature to prevent accidentally shocks or electrocution. The screwdriver has a non-contact voltage detector, that can detect current in live wires from up to an inch away, with both a warning buzzer sound and LED lights.

Smarter and More Secure
• Belkin now offers window and door sensors that monitor whether they are opened or closed, and these can be configured to work with other Belkin products that can shut off your cooling system if windows are open. The company that makes popular Nest electronic thermostats has also come out a product called Ecovent, a thermostat system that individually sets the temperature in every room. Everything can be controlled from your smartphone.

• Where home security is concerned, there is a facial-recognition security camera system now on the market, the Netatmo Welcome. While an old-fashioned deadbolt lock on every door and other proven security measures are still the recommended way to secure and protect your home, this particular product could be very helpful for times when you are traveling or otherwise away from home. The system works via a smartphone app, which also tracks the time that people arrived on your property. If the facial recognition technology does not recognize someone it will give you a “ping” on your phone.

• You can also use the app to view video live-streaming in real time, and the video is recorded to a local SD card – which means you do not have to pay for a monthly subscription service. You could install the system but only activate it at those times, for instance, like when you go on vacation. Then, if unknown persons are lurking around your home you’ll be notified, and you also have the advantage of seeing via video exactly what’s going on at home while you are not there.

Laundry Machines for the Digital Age
For those who are updating their laundry room or building a new home, modern interpretations of the old washer and dryer workhorses are finally here, engineered for the digital age. The LG company, for instance, recently debuted a new mega-capacity top loading washer-dryer pair, which includes a 5.7 cu. ft. capacity washer and a 9.0 cu. ft. capacity dryer. They utilize a new system that enables them to hold more laundry that similar-sized models, too, plus these units are more efficient for reduced washing times.
Some new washer-dryer models also offer wireless technology so you can troubleshoot problems with your machines using a smartphone-connected diagnostic feature. Similarly, you can start your laundry via smartphone when you are away from home or in a different part of the house and also receive notifications by phone when your clothes are ready to be transferred to the dryer.

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.

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