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REAL ESTATE HEADING IN THE “RIGHT DIRECTION”

“If you view all the things that happen to you, both good and bad, as opportunities, then you operate out of a higher level of consciousness.” ~ Les Brown

Real Estate Heading in the “Right Direction” | Keeping Current Matters

The housing market has taken a great turn toward recovery over the last few years. The opinions of the American public toward real estate took longer to recover, until recently.

For the first time since 2006, Americans have an overall positive view of real estate, giving the industry a 12% positive ranking in a Gallup poll.

Americans were asked to rate 24 different business sectors and industries on a five-point scale ranging from “very positive” to “very negative.” The poll was first conducted in 2001, and has been used as an indicator of “Americans’ overall attitudes toward each industry”.

America's View on Real Estate | Keeping Current Matters

Americans’ view of the real estate industry worsened from 2003 to the -40% plummet of 2008.  Gallup offers some insight into the reason for decline:

Prices Dropped

“In late 2006, real estate prices in the U.S. began falling rapidly, and continued to drop. Many homeowners saw their home values plummet, likely contributing to real estate’s image taking a hard hit.”

Housing Bubble

“The large drops in the positive images of banking and real estate in 2008 and 2009 reflect both industries’ close ties to the recession, which was precipitated in large part because of the mortgage-related housing bubble.”

Bottom Line

“Although the image of real estate remains below the average of 24 industries Gallup has tracked, the sharp recovery from previous extreme low points suggests it is heading in the right direction.”

If the news of recovery has you considering homeownership, meet with a local real estate professional to discuss the opportunities that exist in today’s market.

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GET A QUALITY HOME INSPECTION

“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 www.housedetective.com.


TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE THIS WINTER

“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
karl.spitzer@pillartopost.com
www.pillartopost.com

HOUSEHOLD HINTS

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I received this from a friend in an email and thought it was too good not to post. Even if just one of the items help someone it was worth the effort.  I knew about quite a few of these suggestions but not all of them.

HELP!! I CAN’T SELL MY HOME – MY ADDITION WAS NEVER PERMITTED!

“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.

SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

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SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event.” – Gaston Bachelard

Despite all of the hassle moving represents, when the anxiety is gone and the dust has cleared, most of us have to admit that it’s a liberating experience. It forces us to rid ourselves of the clutter accumulated in the house we’re leaving. Whether or not you buy new furniture for your new residence, the motions of packing up and heading for different surroundings is a positive experience for most movers. It’s an opportunity to start over.

Before you move, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your belongings and consider what place they’ll have — if any — in your new home. After all, when you moved into your current home, your family’s needs were different. Since then, its occupants have become older, hobbies have been abandoned, tastes have changed, and now, suddenly, items you once thought you’d die without don’t seem that wonderful anymore.

* Taking stock of your furniture is a good place to start; after all, if you decide to get rid of a piece or two, you can save yourself the considerable expense of moving them. In addition to your furniture, take a good look at your lamps, rugs, pillows, and other accessories — particularly the ones you’ve stored away for months — and decide whether they really reflect your tastes anymore. Some of them may serve little purpose other than to clutter your closets and collect dust. Rid yourself of them, while reminding yourself that everything you pack means more boxes, more packaging and labor costs, and more to unpack later.

* An effective strategy is to draw on paper the floor plan of your new home. Sketch in the designated spots for your furniture, making sure you’ve noted where such obstacles as fireplaces, windows, built-in shelves or desks, etc., are located. Remember where your electric outlets, telephone jacks, and television hookups are located, and make sure you’ve considered the direction in which your doors open. If you’re looking for a more exact plan, with square footage taken into account, take a note from Better Homes and Gardens Online, which suggests using graph paper to draw your rooms to scale. Each square translates to one foot of available space.

Here’s where your creativity takes over: After measuring the size and shape of each major piece of your furniture, draw them on graph paper using the same one-square-per-foot scale as you did for the rooms in your new home. Then cut the shapes and arrange your miniature furniture within your various room floor plans. Once you’ve made a decision about what suits you and where, attach the shapes onto the page.

While this process requires a little patience and a little more creativity, planning ahead enables you to avoid either moving heavy furniture yourself, long after the movers have left; or having your movers pause upon entry into a room, shouldering a heavy load as you decide where that 300-pound dresser should be placed. (Of course, you’d be lucky to find such a tolerant mover.) You’ve got a plan of attack that makes your life and your movers’ lives easier. You can point them in a direction and move on to the next item. The bottom line is that you’re paying by the hour, and a little sketching and cutting now will save you labor costs later. Take the trouble to draw only your major pieces of furniture; your smaller items and accessories can be placed anywhere for now, until you have time to consider the perfect spots for them.

This strategy also allows you to experiment with various arrangements that you may have considered in the past, but abandoned because it seemed like too much effort to pursue. And trying out new configurations is a consolation for not being able to purchase new furniture. Even if you’ve resigned yourself to a sofa that doesn’t thrill you anymore, arranging your furniture in a different manner may provide you with a completely new outlook on belongings that once seemed tired. That variety, combined with a new place of residence, is bound to inspire you. And don’t restrict your furnishings to the rooms in which you’ve traditionally placed them. For example, the chest of drawers sitting in your bedroom might look even better in your new living room. This move is your big chance to experiment — and you don’t even have to move the furniture yourself.

And while you’re laying out your plans on graph paper, you might want to determine the focal point of each room first — a fireplace, a large window, anything that grabs you when you first enter the room. Then arrange your furniture around that focal point. And while it’s a given, it’s well worth repeating that you should consider how each room is going to be used before you design its layout. For example, when you’re planning your living room, if you plan to spend a lot of time entertaining there, you’ll want to place chairs and/or sofas close together and provide plenty of walking room, as well.

After you’ve taken inventory of your current home, take stock of your home-to-be, starting with the kitchen and its appliances. With any luck, you’ll have ensured that all of those kitchen appliances are in good, safe, working order long before your move. Make sure the hot water system is both working and the correct size for your family’s needs. If the answer to either of those questions is no, replacing the unit will save you both considerable energy and money. Then investigate your new home’s heating and cooling system, which is going to represent a predominant percentage of your monthly energy expenses. To figure out if it’s running in top condition, determine the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating for your air conditioning and heating unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system. A rating under 8 is considered relatively inefficient. Also check your ductwork to ensure that its size is appropriate and that it’s clean. Finally, make sure your thermostat and controls are operating correctly.

Home owners often forget that clothes washers and dryers eat up energy, particularly when stackable units are involved. Because users can’t fill them with much clothing, they’re forced to run more loads though the units, resulting in increased energy consumption and subsequent expenses. On the other hand, units that are too large may use excess water or heat. Regardless of the type of unit in your new home, make sure that the washer drains properly and that your dryer is vented out of your home.

And speaking of energy consumption, study all doors, windows, vents, and other passages to the outside for cracks. If you see any gaps or if you feel any air streams, seal them either with caulk or weather stripping. And check your windows to find out if they’re double-paned and fit tightly.

Finally, if you can’t paint your new home’s interior prior to your move-in date, don’t unpack until you do. And be sure to consider the direction of light in your home — where it hits the walls and the shadows it creates. Painting your dining room a deep shade of forest green, for example, could backfire on you if your lot is heavily treed, or if the room generally doesn’t receive much sunlight. The color that seemed vibrant in the can may leave you simply depressed once it’s covering the walls of an already dark room.

Written by Courtney Ronan
May 27, 1998

ARE YOUR UTILITY BILLS SKY HIGH? CHECK YOUR R-VALUES

ARE YOUR UTILITY BILLS SKY HIGH? CHECK YOUR R-VALUES
“A man’s life is what his thoughts make it.”  – Marcus Aurelius
I recently overheard a couple at a hardware store exchange words as they peered down over a massive pile of insulation marked with various R-factors. “Just what IS an R-factor?, queried the woman. “Well, it has to do with how well the insulation does its job—so I guess an R-factor is kind of like the home’s “utility I.Q.”

It’s an interesting analogy since insulation does make your home smarter where utility bills are concerned. But unfortunately, many people don’t properly upgrade the insulation in their home when and where they should. And, in warmer climates, home owners often sidestep the importance of proper insulation all together. How can you gauge if your home is properly insulated and how can it potentially cut hundreds of dollars annually off your utility bills?

The R-factor, simply put, is the measurement of how well insulation resists (thus, the “R”) heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating power. Heat (which is a form of energy) tends to gravitate towards cooler areas in the home (ie. the attic, the walls, the crawl spaces.) That’s why it makes the most sense to have these areas with ample, high-efficiency insulation.

But insulation isn’t just for controlling heat. Resistance works in reverse where cool air is concerned, keeping the warm air from flowing into spaces you’re trying to keep cool. That’s why home owners in warm climates need to know their home’s R-factors in order to keep a lid on their air conditioning bills.
What R-values are considered standard and how do they vary from climate to climate? Manufacturers clearly mark the R-value on the types of insulation they produce. Home owners can often use various types of insulation together to obtain a high R-value. (An example of this is hard-to-access exterior walls where insulation is blown in on top of existing insulation.) Standard R-values differ based on what part of the home you’re trying to insulate. For example, since the attic is the biggest area for energy loss, colder climates require values ranging from R-38 to R-49. But in the South, R-19 in the attic should be ample.

Most local building codes require an R-value of R-19 for exterior walls. But if a home is built using 2 x 6 studs, there’s enough space in the wall cavity to insulate up to a value of R-21.

A frequent cold air leak can be where the house meets the foundation. In fact, you can lose up to 20% of your home’s heating/cooling energy from the foundation area in an non-insulated or poorly insulated home. That’s why it’s important to insulate around the area where the house meets the foundation, not just in the basement walls.

Just because insulation is thick doesn’t mean it has a high R-value. Many manufacturers are now producing higher R-value in fiber glass products by merely increasing the density while keeping the thickness the same. Today you might see R-15 insulation in a wall where R-13 was previously the max due to physical constraints. The efficiency has changed while the physical size of the insulation remains the same.

The bottom line is that if your utility bills are calling “Uncle”, it’s high time you review the R-values in your home. Like the man at the hardware store said, they’re your home’s “utility I.Q.”

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