Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Here’s Why You Need That Home Inspection

You should never judge a book by its cover, or a house by what you can see during a showing. Not only are showings about seeing yourself in a space, rather than assessing a home’s structural stability and system functionality, they’re generally too brief to really get to the nitty gritty. No Realtor is going to wait around while you crawl through the attic.
Anyway, that’s what home inspectors are for.

What a Home Inspection Is and Isn’t

One of the biggest misconceptions about home inspections is that the report you get is a run down of a static structure that’s unchangeable. The truth is that a home — or even an empty lot — is a constantly changing ecosystem. In a house, there are lots of parts behind the scenes that are growing and shrinking, shifting and moving, albeit slowly.
A home inspection isn’t a projection of the future health of your house. It’s a right now look at the structure and all the moving parts. A home inspection is a snapshot and it can only reflect what the inspector sees during the time they’re at your future address.
This means that a year from your home inspection the furnace may go out, or the roof may succumb to high winds. Your house may change in ways no one can predict now. But, that doesn’t mean that a home inspection has no value.

Three Big Reasons to Have a Home Inspection

Home professionals know what they’re getting for the price of a home inspection, but many home buyers balk at the idea of spending even more money trying to buy a house. Granted, home inspections aren’t cheap, but they provide a lot of value for the money. There are plenty of reasons to hire a home inspector, but these three biggies are worth pondering if you’re unsure about pulling that trigger.
1. Home inspectors can sniff out problems you may have missed when viewing the home. No one wants to buy a money pit, but people do all the time because they’re either overestimating their abilities or they’ve failed to get a home inspection. When your home inspector goes through your home, they’ll not just walk around in the living room. They crawl through the crawl space, they get up into the attic, they really give it a good look. Home inspections take hours to complete, but when they’re done you’ll be given a report that provides you more information than you could ever imagine. The types of problems found will help you decide if you can really deal with the house in the longer term or if you can afford the house at all.
2. They’ll prepare you for upcoming repairs. Although your home inspection is a snapshot of your home at a particular moment in time, and not meant to predict the future, there are many parts of the ecosystem that predictably show signs of wear. When your home inspector sees that your shingles are starting to lose their asphalt coating, for example, they’re going to make a note of that in the report. If the furnace is beyond its useful life, even though it still works, you can brace yourself for replacing it. Knowing that there are problems in your future can give you more time to prepare for fixing them, even if that means changing loan types to a mortgage with a rehabilitation loan component, like an FHA 203(K).
3. Don’t forget, an inspection report is also a bargaining chip. Most real estate contracts allow you an inspection period, during which you can get your experts out and have them look around the property. You also have the right to ask for repairs based on what they find, provided these were not readily apparent issues. (If the carpet’s worn in the hallway, you can’t ask for that during the inspection period because you could see it. You should request those kinds of repairs with your initial offer.)
Those less visible defects are everything. Say, for example, that your home inspector found that the plumbing is leaking under the house. When that report comes in, you can request that the seller fix this issue, because it’s obviously a major problem you couldn’t have known about. If they refuse, you can come back and ask to lower the sales price (with most loan programs). Some lenders will require that something as important as the piping is in working order before closing, so make sure you and your Realtor know what your loan requires before breaking out the home inspection bargaining chip.
After closing, a lot of buyers lose or toss their home inspections. This is kind of a mistake. You can use that home inspection as a punch list of items to update, repair or replace, and check them off as you go. Later, when you go to sell that house, you can show your potential buyers that you literally fixed everything on the home inspection. That’s a confidence builder, for sure.

You Need a Home Inspection — and an Inspector!

Your Realtor knows lots of home inspectors, so when it comes time to look that house over from top to bottom, connect with them in the HomeKeepr community. You’ll be able to view your agent’s recommendations for home inspectors in the area, along with other home experts you may need to help with repairs further down the road.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blowing Hot and Cold: What to Do When the Climate’s Not Controlled

Of all of the dramatic and awe-inspiring developments of the modern era, surely climate control is high up there among the most beautiful. It can be a muggy 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside and yet, with a well-maintained air conditioner, it’s amazingly 74 and dry inside. In the winter, you can walk into a cozy 68 degree house after shoveling your -4 degree sidewalk. There truly isn’t much better in the whole world.
That’s why when your climate control system isn’t working, it sort of creates a bit of a panic. After all, you wouldn’t want to actually have to deal with -4 or 95 degree weather. That’s definitely a bummer. Luckily, a lot of the most common reasons for your forced air unit’s failure to do its duty can be easily DIY-ed.

Wielding Power Over Sun and Rain

Hey, there’s nothing unimpressive about what your friendly neighborhood HVAC expert can do when it comes to turning a brutal building into a climate-controlled structure, but you, too, can take a little bit of credit for keeping the weather under wraps. Before you call in your HVAC expert, a bit of troubleshooting can save you money and your repairman time.
Many of the problems with HVAC systems can be corrected at the filter, the condensation line or the breaker box. Let’s take a look at each issue in a bit of depth.

HVAC Filters are Your Worst Frenemy

When your climate control system kicks on, it immediately starts sucking air into the cold air return, pulling it across the air handler, which is either set to heat or cool. After a quick pass, that air is pushed out through the ducts, to be collected again by the cold air return and put through the ringer again.
As your air filter picks up more dust, hair and other airborne particulate, it gets harder for the air handler to suck air into the system. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a position where the filter is so dirty that there’s almost no air flow and, therefore, no climate control. Strangely enough, most homeowners aren’t ever told how often to change their filters — the three month estimate on a lot of filter packages is a ridiculous overestimation of how long that filter will last.
Instead, HVAC experts recommend you check your filters at least once a month and replace them any time they start to look dirty. The higher your filter’s MERV rating, the more frequently it’ll need to be changed. This doesn’t mean you should seek out a filter with a low MERV rating, though. Too low of a MERV rating will leave your HVAC system vulnerable to dirt and dust collection inside the system, rather than on the filter. For most homes, a MERV of 7 or higher will filter out the stuff you really don’t want in the air, like mold spores, pollen and dust and protect your system.
If it’s been a while since you changed the filter and the system’s still kicking on, just blowing the wrong temperature, start at the filter. Change it, even if it’s only discolored. This can indicate that the tiny passages in the paper are clogged.

Awkward Conversations About Condensation

Plenty of people who are fairly hands-off when it comes to home maintenance don’t realize that their systems have something called a condensation line. This is essentially a tube that moves water from the air handler to a drain or outdoors, depending on the way your system is configured. Sometimes, your system will do something weird like kick on and off again rapidly or simply not cool properly as the only sign that your condensation line needs help.
In a modern HVAC system, the air from your cold air return is pulled across a special tent-shaped coil system that gets really cold when the gases inside are compressed. As that warm air passes and is cooled, it drops much of the liquid it was holding and that water collects in a pan below the coil. From there, the water goes into a dedicated line or vinyl tube, the condensation line, and out of the house.
When the condensation line is blocked, this process is disrupted. Some air handlers are designed to essentially stop working until the standing water is removed from the pan, others will simply spill everything into the floor, which is not a good time. This is why it’s usually recommended that you flush that condensation line every time you change your HVAC filter.
If you suspect a clogged condensation line, flushing it with straight vinegar or a diluted vinegar/ hot water mix can get the water out of the catch pan and restart the air conditioning party.

Have You Tried Turning it Off and Turning it Back On Again?

Hey, if it works for computers, televisions and all manner of electronics, turning it on and turning it off again should work on your air conditioner, should it? The truth is that your HVAC system is not your granddad’s system. There are plenty of computerized parts that are necessary for it to do its job property. When you’ve tried replacing the filter and you’ve cleaned the condensation line until it’s allowing water to flow free and neither of those things worked, it doesn’t hurt anything to reboot the system.
Most HVAC systems have at least two breakers in different parts of the house. Your air conditioner, for example, should have a double-wide breaker inside your main breaker box, as well as a breaker on the outside of the house. This outside breaker is housed in a little box of its own, hanging on the house very close to the outdoor unit.
Both of these need to be reset, since the problem could be anything from a computer that’s simply confused or a partially tripped breaker that was the result of a particularly windy night. Start by flipping the breaker inside your house to the “off” position, then go to the outside breaker box. Depending on the type of electricity interruption technology inside, you may just need to flip a switch, or it may require that you pull the fuse out and put it back in. Once you’ve done that, you can go back inside and turn the power in the main breaker box back to “on.”

Still Got Nothin’? Time to Call in the Calvary!

Anything beyond what’s explained in this blog is probably a bit more than a homeowner should be trying to fix on their own. HVAC systems are not only technically complicated, they’re sort of dangerous inside. But, hey, you’ve already got a great HVAC service in your HomeKeepr network that your Realtor has recommended! You’ll save time and get your power to control the indoor climate back in a snap — you’re totally winning today!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Declutter to Improve Your Home’s Marketability

Of all the things that you can do to get your home ready for the market, there’s nothing as effective or inexpensive as decluttering. Not only does it allow you to really showcase the best features of your home, it helps you get ready to move and to possibly shed some items you really don’t need anymore anyway. Two birds, one stone.
A proper decluttering can be a big project, though. It’s important to have a plan before you get started.

Decluttering 101: Getting Started

The goal of decluttering for a home sale is to make your house appear as large and functional as is possible within its structural limitations. Obviously you’re not going to turn a 12 foot by 12 foot living room into a massive parlor simply by getting some stuff out of the way, but as with anything you’re looking to sell, it’s a good idea to put the best foot forward possible.
Removing clutter helps rooms feel more open and airy, so make this the hard focus of your life until it’s totally done. Bringing in some friends who will give you an honest opinion can also help you find more things to get out of the house before your Realtor comes to take the photos for your listing.
These tips can help you stay focused:
1. Begin at the beginning. The first thing a potential buyer is going to see is the yard, then the driveway and then the front door. These areas need to be very neat and tidy or else they’ll simply stay in the car and drive away. You don’t want to waste a lot of energy inside for buyers to be turned off because your front porch is covered in shaggy planters and old patio furniture.
2. One room at a time. There are any number of apps for planning big projects like this, so pick one and get to making a list. Every room in the house, even closets and hallways, should have their own entry. Break the effort into the smallest chunks possible to make it easier to accomplish. The more you check off, the better you’ll feel and the more momentum you’re going to build.
3. Do you really need all that furniture? Rooms crammed with furniture are great for get togethers, but they’re terrible for showing a buyer how they can use the same space. All they can see is your furniture, so get as much of it out of the way as possible. Leave the pieces that are the nicest or the newest for the very best first impression.
4. Clean all the counters off. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get into the habit of using your counters for storage, but when buyers see this practice, they just assume you don’t have enough storage. nobody wants a house with not enough storage — that’s probably the reason they’re looking for a new place to begin with.
5. Clean the showers. It’s an incredible hassle and something you probably only do when company is coming, but assume that company will be coming every day until closing from now on. Black mold on shower grout is an huge turn-off. Those buyers won’t know that you haven’t cleaned the back shower stall since 1989, they’ll just see that black mold and leave.
6. Your collections have gotta go. Yes, you have the most amazing collection of paperclip stick figures ever assembled, but they don’t need to be on display. In fact, they’re probably standing between you and a potential buyer right now. Pack them up, get them out of sight, make the room where you keep them look enormous.
7. Declutter the garage and storage buildings, too. Oh, don’t think we’ve forgotten about these guys. They’re great places to dump stuff you don’t want to get rid of, but don’t know where to put, but that potential buyer is going to want to know if their own stuff that they can’t figure out what to do with will fit in that space. Clean that garage and those storage buildings up and, if necessary, install some heavy duty shelves or racks to give them some appearance of organization.

Where Do You Put The Decluttered Clutter?

Once you’ve sorted out the things you can live without for a while, you have to decide what to do with them. You have a few options. You can sell them, maybe make a little bit of cash at a resale shop or a garage sale. You can keep them, but in a storage unit somewhere away from your home. You can recycle them. You can donate them. Probably, realistically, you’ll do a few of these things, depending on the clutter.
Whatever you do, don’t keep them in the boxes in your house. That defeats the entire purpose of decluttering. Remember, you want to make your house look huge, not like a tightly packed storage unit. So banish the boxes, clear the clutter, make it go far, far away. You’ll also be mostly ready for your move, should you sell that house quickly because of how clean and shiny it is, so that’s nice.

Need a Hand With the Mission: Impossible?

It can be a huge and daunting task to declutter a home you’ve lived in for a while, there’s no doubt about it. But that’s why there are professionals who have tons of experience organizing and staging spaces for home sellers. If this isn’t your forte, your HomeKeepr community can help you find someone who lives for it. Since your Realtor has already recommended these pros, you know they’re going to do an amazing job. You won’t even recognize your own house!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Do You Know How to Deal with Storm Damage?

There’s little worse than waking up in the morning after a big storm, only to discover that your house (and probably a few trees) aren’t exactly in the same condition you left them when you went to bed. You probably even let out an audible groan, since you just know it’s going to be a whole day of making calls and explaining over and over again what’s happened in order to get the right help out to your house.
If you’ve never handled a storm damage claim (or other homeowner claim), you know it can be incredibly intimidating. There are things you can do to help yourself and other things that will seriously hinder you. But, armed with the right information, your claim and clean up will be a (relative) breeze.

What to do Immediately After a Storm

Your first instinct after a storm is probably to start cleaning up and making repairs. It’s a natural next step, there’s no doubt about it. But, the problem with this is that if you start to clear the problem away, it’s going to be very difficult for your insurance adjuster to figure out what actually happened in the night. Here are some dos and don’ts for the hours to days after a storm:
Do take lots of photos of the damage as soon as possible. Anything can happen between the time when you realize you have damage and when the adjuster shows up. So document, document, document. Get lots of photos from lots of angles so they can put together a complete picture of the situation. Every detail helps.
Don’t remove anything that isn’t going to contribute more damage to the house. If there’s a tree on your roof and it’s poking through the attic, you’re going to have to clear some of that away. If there’s a tree on your roof, but it’s small and just sort of lying there, it’s probably not hurting anything. The same goes for any sort of debris that might be hanging around. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to.
Do stabilize serious problems like leaking roofs. The tree that’s punched into the attic is a big deal. You’re going to have to act on this to prevent further damage. Either call one of your HomeKeepr home pros or grab the chainsaw and clear it carefully from the roof. Then cover the hole with a tarp or take other temporary measures. The key here is temporary. You should not attempt to fix this permanently now. Again, the insurance adjuster needs to look at it first.
Don’t hire any roofers or other repair companies that are canvassing your neighborhood. If your whole neighborhood was hit by high winds or other severe weather, expect to be almost immediately mobbed by canvassing roofers and handymen. It’s not that they’re terrible people, but you need to know what your insurance is prepared to cover before you hire anyone. You generally have the option to choose your own repair people, within a reasonable price range, so do collect all the cards they bring by.

Once the Insurance Adjuster Arrives

When the adjuster lands at your house, be kind. Remember that they’re probably severely overworked at the moment, since your whole town was ravaged by the same storm. They do want you to get back to normal as soon as possible, but they’re just not physically able to help everyone at once. It’s no fun to suffer a storm gladly, but patience is a virtue.
They’ll take a look at the damage, possibly bring in a home pro to do a more detailed evaluation and then you’ll wait some more. Make sure that you show them everything you have while they’re at your doorstep, from the photos you took right after the storm to the measures you had to take to stabilize the damage. The more complete the details, the easier it is for them to figure out how much it’s going to cost to fix your house.
Get their phone number, just in case you have anything else to send them. An email might also be appropriate. Staying in touch at this point is going to be vital, since there could be things you’ll need to do to keep the process moving along. This might include meeting home repair experts at your home to provide quotes, sending those quotes over to the adjuster and so forth.

A Few Things That Can Go Wrong

Dealing with storm damage is stressful. There’s just something intrinsically awful about being so inconvenienced by random acts of nature, but chances are good that you’ll have to go through it once or twice. Depending on where you live, however, it can become a much bigger problem than just a basic hassle. Your insurance may not cover your damage because you weren’t carrying the right type of coverage. This is a good place for a dramatic gasp.
If you’ve not had a storm yet, you’re going to want to check your policies to see if the following items are included or if you have a separate policy or rider to cover them:
Sewage backups. Yes, it’s true that your basic homeowner’s policy probably won’t cover a sewage backup, even if it’s caused by surging storm drain water. Not only is this about the worst thing to clean up ever, it can be costly if you have a finished basement or other area that would need to be completely gutted in order to repair.
Flooding. Most flood insurance policies are issued through FEMA via the National Flood Insurance Program. The cost is relatively minimal, but because so many people assume they’re covered against floods under their homeowner’s, they don’t bother to look into this at all. The odds are good that your basic homeowner’s policy is not going to cover any water that seeps in from outside, though. You should call your agent to verify this information, but certainly don’t blindly trust you’re good to go.
Wind damage. In states where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains (or where hurricanes are common), you may not have enough wind coverage with just a basic insurance policy. Often, there are serious restrictions on how much your policy will pay (usually as a percentage of the policy, not the actual cost of damage) and on what kind of damage it’ll pay it. Make sure you’ve got wind damage coverage that will pay out enough if you ever had to use it.
Vehicle damage. If a tree falls on your car during a windstorm and no one is around to see it, is it covered by your homeowner’s insurance? No. Not usually, anyway. That would be a job for your car insurance, so make sure it’s ample if you’re in a storm-heavy area. The only cases where you could pretty much count on the car being covered by your homeowner’s is if the car were inside the garage and then the garage fell on it. Even then there may be some limits.

Making Sure You’re Totally Covered

Being a homeowner means having to navigate some complicated waters, especially when it comes to the financials of it all. But you don’t have to worry about your insurance coverage or who will help you put your home back together after a storm if you’ve found a great team. Just drop in on your HomeKeepr community for the best insurance agents, roofers and general handymen in your area. Your Realtor trusts them, so you know they have to be good!

Wait, That’s Not Included? Appurtenance Explained

You’ve finally found the home of your dreams. It’s perfect, the price is right, the neighborhood is wonderful (and walkable!) and it has some really awesome appliances. But when you go to your final walk-through, you’re shocked to discover that those awesome appliances have been removed, with absolutely no clue left as to their current whereabouts. Well, that certainly can’t stand! Where are the appliances?
You stop in your tracks. Dead in your tracks. And you utter the words no Realtor ever wants to hear, “I’m not closing.” Your Realtor calmly pulls up the listing information on their phone to check the status of the appliances. Then they have a heart to heart with you about appurtenance.

Appurtenance and Private Property

There are few concepts within the real estate world that bring more tears, screaming and actual legal fights than appurtenance. This is basically a sort of wavy line between where real property (like a house or a piece of land) starts and private property (like a bird feeder or a stove) ends. Because so many homes are shown while occupied, there are usually a lot of things inside that don’t go with the house when it’s sold.
You’d never assume that piano stayed or that the couch was a gimme with the home, those are fairly clear-cut pieces of private property you know not to plan on owning. But there are also things that are a lot hazier. For example, that freestanding range or the neat light over the kitchen bar. These things are less straightforward. After all, every kitchen needs a range, right? And that light fixture, it’s just a light fixture, so whatever — you’ll just replace it with something cheaper when it’s time to move.
That’s not actually how it works, though. Appurtenance means, essentially, that an item belongs to the house. It’s not yours or the new owner’s, but instead it sort of travels with the property. In a very basic example, you could say that a pool and the pool house are appurtenant. They clearly go with the property indefinitely, until they’re destroyed. No question there.

The Appurtenance Litmus Test

A pool is one thing, but that stove, that light fixture, even a satellite dish, these are quite different questions. How do you know when they stay or go? First, you should always check the listing carefully — often your answers are spelled out right there. But if they aren’t, there’s a litmus test you can use to help better understand what “belongs.”
Ask yourself, “Is this item meant to be permanently attached to the house, and if so, will it damage the property if it’s removed?” It’s a two-part question that is always in the same two parts. First, it has to have been attached with the intent of being permanent. Secondly, it has to cause cosmetic or structural damage if it’s taken out.
This means that the freestanding stove, which is only plugged in and pushed between two cabinets, is in no way appurtenant. The light fixture, however, was installed in a permanent fashion, so it is appurtenant. The piano is still completely off-limits.
It’s not that this concept by itself is so difficult to understand on the surface, it’s more that some people have different ideas of what “permanent” and “damage” mean. Let’s look at another example. Say there’s a really cool television mounted above the fireplace in the house you’re interested in buying. You assume it’s appurtenant because it’s attached, right? It’s mounted in the brick, so taking it down would damage the fireplace.
Yet, the seller takes that television when they move, but they kindly leave you the brackets so you can install your own television in the same spot. You scream bloody murder. Your Realtor points out that there’s no damage and the bracket is still attached to the fireplace. In this case, the television itself wasn’t actually appurtenant, but the bracket was.

A Few Tips for Determining What Stays

Buying a house is stressful, and there’s nothing good about making it more stressful by introducing concepts like appurtenance, but it’s also no fun to be blindsided at your final walk-through, either. Even if you’ve never done a single DIY project in your life, these questions should help you figure out if that thing you really hope is staying will actually hang around after closing:
Is it plugged in? Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, if something’s plugged into the wall, it’s not appurtenant. Garbage disposals break this rule because they are often plugged in, but they’re also permanently attached in other ways, so you can generally assume they’re going to be waiting for you like a puppy dog after a long day at work.
Was the surface material broken to install it? Let’s say the thing you’re now worried about is a satellite dish and it’s installed on the chimney. You can see from the ground that it’s just strapped up there with sturdy plastic straps. Because the method of attachment is considered non-permanent (aka. It doesn’t damage the surface material), that satellite can be removed by the seller. If they leave it, you should seriously think about having one of your HomeKeepr pros attach it more solidly, though.
Is the item required to make the property function? This is a little weirder of a question, unless you’re already thinking about your house as one giant thing made up of lots of little systems. All those little systems have to be in balance to make it work, from the gutters to the soffit vents. Let’s say that your sellers ran off with all the downspouts from the gutter system (this would also be a weird thing to take, but this is a very fictitious example). Although they’re not permanently affixed to the house, they are a part of the gutter system, which is required to keep water from running under your house and into the basement. Those downspouts could be argued to be appurtenant since they’re part of a necessary system.
You can think about this concept in terms of items that belong to your house, if that makes it easier, but you have to keep in mind the intent and damage aspects, too. If you’re going to try to fight a seller for an appurtenant item, however, make sure it’s worth the cost. These battles can literally take years and cost much more than it would to simply replace the item. Sometimes it’s worth the effort, sometimes it’s not. Your agent can give you advice on what to do if your walk-through turns into an alarming episode of cataloging missing pieces.

Appurtenant or Not, You’re Never Alone in Your Home Journey

Whether or not your new favorite painting turned out to be appurtenant, you’ve got all the help you could ever need to remove, replace or repair your new home within your HomeKeepr community. There’s always someone available who can help you hang a light fixture, advise you on matters of attachment or bolt that chimney-mounted satellite dish on once and for all. Since your Realtor recommended these nice folks, you know you can count on them no matter the challenge.

Spring home buying season begins: pending home sales rise

Spring home buying season begins: pending home sales rise: The spring home buying season is already beginning as pending home sales reversed course and increased in much of the country in February. NAR explained the expanding economy and healthy job market are generating sizable homebuyer demand, but the minuscule number of listings on the market and its adverse effect on affordability are squeezing buyers and suppressing overall activity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Skanner News - Report: One in Three Oregonians Struggle to Afford Housing

The Skanner News - Report: One in Three Oregonians Struggle to Afford Housing: The Skanner News is an award-winning media organization consisting of a printed newspaper and a web site featuring more than 25,000 news stories. We publish original journalism and commentary covering Portland, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest, as well as news stories from the Associated Press. The Skanner News has served the public with timely information in the Portland, Oregon edition since October 1975 and the Seattle edition since 1990. The publisher is a past two-term president of the West Coast Black Publishers Association as well as a member of the National Newspapers Publishers Association.

Here’s Why You Need That Home Inspection

You should never judge a book by its cover, or a house by what you can see during a showing. Not only are showings about seeing yourself in...