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Category Archives: home safety



“A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” – William Feather

When it comes to selling you home, everyone has a different perspective on what the price should be.  This is a big problem, especially for Realtors who have studied the market and different subdivisions, and are knowledgeable on the value of a home.  Sometimes there is a wide difference of opinion in pricing the home to sell, between the Realtor and the seller.  I have also found the lender, appraiser and tax assessor also have their opinions.  Following is a pictorial description of the discrepancy of these opinions.  I hope this helps eliminate any confusion current sellers may have.









“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam

Beware of the ‘silent killer’

By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Reprinted from:  Inman News™

Q: Our house was built around 1940; the fireplace is original; and we installed forced-air gas heating about 10 years ago. We haven’t had the fireplace or furnace inspected. What do you guys recommend to get the fireplace and the furnace ready for winter?

A: Regular inspection and servicing of fireplaces and furnaces adds to comfort, makes them more economical and most important, keeps them safe. Regular inspections can prevent a deadly house fire or the introduction of a silent killer: carbon monoxide.

Here’s our checklist to keep you cozy and safe during the winter months:

Wood-burning fireplaces

1. Inspection by a certified chimney sweep is a must. For heavy use, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually. Go up to five years if the fireplace is used only occasionally. The sweep should inspect for proper operation of the damper and for cracks in the flue liner, as well as sweeping the flue to remove creosote and other combustion byproducts.

2. Close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.

3. Install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one. You don’t want creatures building their nest in your flue.

4. When starting a fire, “prime” the flue by holding lighted newspaper at the back wall of the firebox to start the warm air rising.

5. Burn aged, dry hardwood if possible. Fir or pine burns hot and deposits creosote in the chimney. Don’t burn construction debris. It may contain toxic chemicals that will vaporize in the fire and could enter the living space.

6. Do not clean out the fireplace when the ashes are still hot. And dispose of the ashes in a place where wayward embers won’t start a fire.

Fireplace with gas starter

1. If the flame goes out, wait at least five minutes before attempting to relight the fireplace. This allows time to clear the fireplace of gas.

2. Be alert for unusual odors or odd-colored flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly. In such cases, contact your dealer or licensed technician for servicing. Contact the gas company if you smell gas when the unit is off.

Gas furnace maintenance

1. An annual maintenance check of a gas furnace extends the life of the appliance and ferrets out any hidden problems. A qualified heating contractor should vacuum out the unit, inspect the blower motor, inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, check the electronics and perform a multipoint checklist to make sure the furnace is operating properly.

2. Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently during the heating season. This ensures that air returning from the inside of the house is unobstructed and clean when entering the combustion chamber.

3. Keep vents, space heaters and baseboards clear of furniture, rugs and drapes to allow free air movement.

4. Ensure there is free airflow around your furnace and make sure there are no storage items obstructing airflow.

5. Do not store or use combustible materials, such as chemicals, paint, rags, clothing, draperies, paper, cleaning products, gasoline, or flammable vapors and liquids in the vicinity of the furnace.

6. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and lethal gas that can occur any time there is incomplete combustion or poor venting. Any home that contains fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace or furnace, should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Copyright 2011 Bill and Kevin Burnett


“About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” – Herbert Hoover

4 truths about home inspectors

Why are there so many consumer complaints?By Barry Stone
Reprinted from:  Inman News™

DEAR BARRY: I read your column religiously every week and it seems that most of the problems answered by you deal with questionable inspections by home inspectors. I am beginning to think that the majority of home inspectors are either extremely incompetent or are in the pocket of the sellers or realty agents. How can a buyer find an honest, reliable and competent home inspector? –Archie

DEAR ARCHIE: Your question raises more than one issue, so I offer the following four answers:

1. Many of the questions I receive are complaints about home inspectors. Human nature being what it is, people speak up more readily when they have a bad experience than when they have a good one. The fact is, there are many competent home inspectors in the profession, but people don’t write to say what a great home inspection they just had. Therefore, the complaints show up often in my articles.

2. Unfortunately, there are many home inspectors who do not perform thorough or competent inspections. No doubt, there are some cases where this is due to unethical relationships with REALTORS®. Personally, I don’t know any inspectors who operate on that level, so I expect that collusion of that kind is a rare practice.

But home inspectors are often exposed to subtle suggestions and pressures from agents. Without intending to be dishonest, there could be a tendency, in such cases, to soften the presentation of some disclosures.

3. Some home inspectors lack the knowledge and experience needed to conduct a thorough and adequate property evaluation. Most home inspectors receive ongoing education from associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and various other state associations. But not all home inspectors are on the advanced side of the educational curve.

4. The toughest question is: How can I find a competent, reliable home inspector? The best I can offer is a method that is not foolproof. Try to find someone with years of experience, who has performed thousands of home inspections. Look for someone who is regarded by real estate agents as a nit-picky perfectionist. In fact, you could call real estate offices and ask if there is an inspector who is known as a “deal killer” or “deal breaker.” Inspectors with that kind of reputation are likely to be qualified and honest.

DEAR BARRY: The house I’m buying is more than 100 years old, and there appear to be some structural problems. The main support beam in the basement is cracked, causing the upstairs floor to sag. The sellers have installed temporary supports and say that permanent repairs can be done at a later time for about $1,000. Should I buy this home or leave it well enough alone? –Chris

DEAR CHRIS: If you seriously wish to purchase this home, you should disregard the sellers’ assessment of the support problems and have the foundation and framing systems professionally evaluated. Concerns regarding the structural integrity of a home should not be left to chance or to off-hand opinions.

The framing defects should be investigated by a licensed structural engineer. The property should also be fully evaluated by the most thorough and experienced home inspector you can find.

Additional problems will be revealed by a qualified home inspector, and with the sellers soft-selling a structural defect, additional findings could be decisive.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of    regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”                         – Jim Rohn

Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives and destroyed property. The fact is that many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented by homeowners. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home — and can even save your life should disaster strike.

  • All electrical devices including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires under carpet or rugs as this creates a fire hazard.
  • Wood-burning fireplaces should be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep each year to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
  • When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, papers — anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended or where a child or pet could knock them over.
  • Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard-wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home and inside each bedroom. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Many municipalities now require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
  • Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters, or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline or kerosene should be stored outside the house.
  • Kitchen fires know no season. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Handles of pots and pans should be turned away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach.
  • Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures you can take to prevent death in a fire. Your local fire department can provide detailed recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
  • Live Christmas trees should be kept in a water-filled stand and checked daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree, which should be discarded immediately. Always use non flammable decorations in the home, and never use lights on a dried-out tree.
  • Candles should be placed in stable holders and placed away from curtains, drafts, pets, and children. Never leave candles unattended, even for a short time.
  • Christmas or other holiday lights should be checked for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when joining two or more strands together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy your indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.

Your local Pillar To Post office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season.

A big thank you to Karl for sending this article my way.

Karl Spitzer


“Politics is more dangerous than war, for in war you are only killed once.” – Winston Churchill

As I said a few months ago, with the bad comes good and so it is with the tree we lost this past May. We have had occasion to use some of the wood from that tree in our wood stove last week, and it is some of the best wood we’ve used yet. Even better is the fact that we didn’t have to buy it.  It only cost us sweat and labor.  So need we worry about woodchucks chucking our wood?

The woodchuck (Marmota monax), is actually a member of the squirrel family. You may know this animal as a “ground hog”, of which the most famous is Punxsutawney Phil.  Every year on February 2 Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his temporary burrow – a simulated tree stump at the rural site of Gobbler’s Knob in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, winter weather will continue for six more weeks. But if he doesn’t see his shadow, then spring is just around the corner.

The groundhog or woodchuck grows to a length of about 16” to 26” and weighs between 4 and 9 lbs. They are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and thick curved claws. Groundhogs are covered with two coats of fur – a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs – which helps keep them warm during the winter months when they hibernate. In the wild groundhogs only live about six years, since they have many predators such as foxes, bobcats, bears, wolves, coyotes, large hawks, dogs and even snakes, who prey on the young woodchucks.

So, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  The answer is: As much wood as a woodchuck would, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

One thing is for certain, a woodchuck certainly couldn’t chuck anything as large as we have stored on our back patio.  I think our wood is safe – at least from woodchucks.

In all seriousness, woodchucks cannot chuck wood. The name is unrelated to wood or chucking of any kind. The name comes from the Algonquian Indian name for animal – wuchak.

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“An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded. ”     Pope John Paul II

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this.  Well I have both good news and bad news.  First for the bad news.  If you decide to go the route of permitting something that has already been built, you will pay double for the permit, compared to what you would have paid in the first place.  Then you will have to hire a contractor to draw plans, do the engineering and have everything inspected.  If your addition has electricity and plumbing – and most do – you will need to remove a section of the wall to enable the electric and plumbing to be inspected.

On the other hand, let’s say for instance you hired a contractor to build your addition and later on you find out he never obtained a permit – what can you do?  You should start by contacting that contractor and requesting that he file the permits.  If he refuses, you should call the DBPR (Department of Business and Professional Regulation) in your state and file a complaint against the contractor.  This should get his attention rather quickly.

Let’s say for instance you finished off a part of your attic, which already had electric, just so you could have some extra space for storage or a place for the kids to hang out in.  All you did was hang some sheet rock, install a floor and paint. You still should have obtained a permit, but now your selling and don’t have the time to go through all that. Now for the good news: You will need to disclose the remodel on the seller’s disclosure and to you agent.  The buyers can then decide to purchase the home in spite of the addition not being permitted, taking the risk of an un-permitted addition on themselves.



“Ask, and it shall be given unto you.”  –  Jesus Christ

There’s nothing more frustrating to a ready, willing, and seemingly able buyer than to lose an offer to another buyer — especially since the seller was not specific (down to the letter) about what he expected to receive.

Sure, there’s the list price; but in today’s fast-paced market, a buyer/ prospect may offer thousands more than the list price and STILL not be the lucky buyer who gets the property!

That’s why sellers should be as specific as possible with buyers in what they want to receive and achieve in a successful offer.

Let’s tackle the major elements the seller should be prepared to address with serious buyers. I suggest that sellers (or their real estate agent) prepare a “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet to give to buyers, outlining what they expect in the following:

Loan pre-approval
By now, it should go without saying that buyers without loan pre-approval shouldn’t be competing in the current market; but sadly, some are. That’s why it’s important for the seller to specify that buyers be pre-approved for loans ample enough to fund the purchase price, AND detail the type of loan and respective costs (if any) the seller would cover.

For example, a buyer might claim to be pre-approved for a mortgage of “x” amount. What she fails to disclose, however, is that it’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) financing and she expects the seller to cover her two discount points. On a $140,000 sales price (with zero down) that’s a hefty $2,800 for the seller.
Or what about the buyer who claims to have “cash” coming to him to fund the purchase (often coming from proceeds of an estate or settlement of a law suit.) The buyer’s funds are delayed. In order to close the sale, he must borrow the money, causing the seller a three-week delay in accessing his proceeds. Verifying the buyer’s funding (which is tougher to do in a “cash” sale) is vital for sidestepping potential delays for the seller.

Earnest Money
In the old, slower school of home buying a decade or more ago, buyers would offer a meager amount of earnest money or even a post-dated check with the idea that they could always up the ante if need be. In today’s market, more (rather than less) earnest money is advised in most situations. Not only does it subtly signify to the seller how financially motivated a buyer is, but can serve as a buyer’s first (and often only) shot at a strong first impression to the seller.
By letting prospective buyers know (in writing on the “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet) the minimum amount of earnest money the seller is seeking, it places a strong buyer on equal footing with competitors. It also gives a heads-up that if you want a stronger foothold with the seller in this area, exceeding the suggested minimum amount is certainly in order! If a buyer structures an offer to include minimal contingencies like obtaining financing in a certain amount and the property appraising for at least the sales price, etc., earnest money would be at little risk of loss.

And what about contingencies? Should a seller require that buyers make all offers free of positively all contingencies if they’re serious about the property? Hardly. But keeping contingencies to a minimum (as we’ll see in Part II of this article) definitely gives buyers an added advantage over their competition and results in a smoother sale for you as a seller.

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