GET READY FOR SPRING: A Home Checklist To Get You Started

It’s March 1st and it is 79 degrees on my porch.  I am not going to jump on the global warming band wagon here but all I have to say is I have not had to wear a coat this year.  My tulips are starting to bloom and my daffodils have been up for weeks.  Weird!!!

As I walked around outside I started noticing some home-care type things that I had been either putting off or were noticing for the first time.  That got me thinking… “what kind of home maintenance or preparedness must I be thinking about right now?”  So, I did what I always do when I have a question…I went online.  I found so many great ideas that my internal geek-ness just HAD to share with our readers.  Below is some of what I considered seasonally pertinent, but a quick search online can get you printable checklists that are great to have throughout the year.  

Exterior:

  • Check that water drains are intact and pointing away from the house.
  • Ensure that the fence around the pool is intact.
  • Clean window wells and check drainage.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.  (Tip: It’s easier to clean gutters when leaves are still damp.)
  • Check roof and siding shingles are in good condition.
  • Check chimney, plumbing vents and skylight flashing.
  • Look for peeling paint.
  • Look for signs of water damage where deck attaches to house.
  • Clean dryer vents.
  • Check exhaust ducks are clear.
  • Make sure all exterior lighting is working, especially motion sensor lighting.
  • Trim branches around the roof line to keep squirrels, roof rats and other pesky animals off the roof.
  • To keep water shut-off valves from sticking, turn them off and then on again.  If they do not shut-off the water, it is time to replace.  If they do not operate smoothly, a little WD-40 works wonders.

Basement and Crawl Space:

  • Ensure there are no wet surfaces or pooling water.
  • Check sump pump and value workings.
  • Vacuum basement surfaces.

 Interior Walls, Ceilings, Wall and Doors:

  • Check the operation of doors and windows.  (Tip, I use WD 40 on the interior workings of my stinky windows.  It is such a fire hazard if windows stick.)

Appliances:

  • Clean dryer vents, hoses and screens.
  • Clean air conditioning coils and drain pans, if any.
  • Clean dehumidifier and check its proper operation.
  • Check washing machine hoses for leaks. If one has old rubber hoses, it might be a good time to replace with no-burst hoses available at the local hardware store.

 Electrical Equipment:

  • Check for damaged cords.  This is just a good thing to get into the habit of!!!
  • Test ground fault interrupters.
  • Check smoke and CO detectors. 

 HVAC Equipment:

  • Have furnaces and fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a professional technician.
  • Check air conditioner and replace filters where necessary.
  • Check Dehumidifier, where you have one built into home.
  • Remove sediment from buildup in hot water heater tank.

 Garage:

  • Check for signs of water damage.
  • Check for signs of rodents, bats, roaches and TERMITES.

 Channel your inner weekend warrior, this stuff is important!

Liabilities That Can Raise Your Insurance Rates

Most people buy home owners insurance to protect their property from damage BUT did you know that liabilities from accidents can drive your insurance rates up more than damage can.  Typically when someone is harmed on your or by your property they will sue for millions.  Yes, millions.  Therefore, an insurer will make an assessment of premiums based on what your liabilities are and not just the cost of what it will take to replace what you have.  Here are a few potential liabilities to be aware of:

Fenced In PoolDrowning is the leading cause of fatal injury for young children.  The CDC estimates that more than ½ of drowning deaths of young children could have been prevented by properly fenced in pools.  As well, homeowners can be liable for injuries that occur even when their pool is used without their permission.  Sure, insurers will cover homes with pools BUT typically at higher rates and with limited liability on their end. 

Dogs:  Not just another member of the family according to most insurances companies.  Insurance companies take these pooches very seriously.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that more than 4.7 million people A YEAR are bit by dogsMore than 50% of those bites occur on the owner’s property and 1/3 of those results in insurance liability claims. Ouch!!  

Tree Houses:  Here’s a stat, every day approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms from fall related injuries which is about 2.8 million children a year.  Tree houses are considered the main culprit of these accidents so some insurance companies have included “tree house exclusion clauses” in their policies, some reject homeowners outright and others put high premiums on their policies.  Make sure you know in advance what your policy covers especially in a neighborhood full of young children.  That tree house looks very tempting especially when no one is around to supervise!!

Heating Fires: Every year heating fires account for 36% of residential fires in rural areas.  Before installing a wood stove or fireplace you may want to call your insurer to see how much/if any your rates may rise.  As well, most insurers may require certification that the unit was installed properly but if they were not notified of its existence will not cover the damage or liability at all.

Sewer Backups:  No one wants to think about this mess but “it” happens and just like floods typically “it” is not covered by a standard homeowner’s policy.  On average, our nation’s sewer lines are 30 years old so depending on how old your neighborhood or home is you could be looking at a high likelihood this will be in your future.  Damage from this disaster can be costly and you’ll want to know if you are covered before disaster strikes.

Home Businesses:  A typical home policy covers a max of $2,500 for business equipment in your home.  This typically does not cover business-related liabilities if a customer or other persons are injured on your property.  If you do not have specific business insurance that covers the business in your home and you don’t notify your insurer of your business you chance not being covered. 

Hope this information helps you in advance of disaster!!!

2012 HOME TRENDS

The trend in new homes for 2012 is based off the idea that the home NEEDS to provide the owners “flexibility”.  The trend revolves around the prerequisite that rooms must serve many purposes AND homes should be able to accommodate either older children who are moving back home (I know, ugh!) or aging parents / baby boomers.  Broken out, the trend looks like this:

Need for Accessibility:  The most recent survey done American Institute of Architects identified that baby boomers are preparing for their later years and are settling in home that have accessibility for them as they become elderly.  Features like single-story home, grab bars in the bathrooms, fewer stairs and doorways to accommodate wheelchairs are just a few things that baby boomers have on their must-have lists.

Larger Garage Space:  You may not consider yourself a pack-rat but even the most minimalist of home owners find themselves with a bicycle for every family member, children’s toys for every stage of their growth, golf carts, workbench for tools and lots of storage.  After you throw in a lawnmower and a wheel barrel, you probably have to park your car outside.   As well, with almost each household owning at least one SUV, garage space is a requirement not a luxury anymore.    

Home Central:  Long gone are the desire for huge home offices with mahogany bookshelves and rolling ladder.  With the popularity of laptops and iPads, the desire for smaller more centralized “nooks” that include a built in desk and printer is all that is needed now.  These nooks are typically being built next to the kitchen which tends to be home-central anyway. 

Homes with Room for All:  the Census Bureau says that almost 1/3 of American adults are now living in the same household with another generation of their family.  To accommodate more than one generation and not be stepping over each other the growing need is independence!  Think “small apartment” that has its own bed and bathroom, kitchenette, and some storage space.  Voila!! 

Green:  No surprise here but energy efficient homes are fast becoming the only way to create all the energy your home requires and save money too.  Energy efficient homes are becoming top items on buyers “must have” lists these days as well.  Simple updates like CFL bulbs, energy star appliances and windows that don’t leak air can be huge selling points. 

Flow of the home:  We live differently than our parents did and our homes that reflect this change will win out.  Examples like laundry room with direct access to the master suite; pantries located just off the kitchen that can accommodate bulk items and drop zones between the garage and the kitchen where you can drop your cell phones, purse, keys and mail are key to maintaining the true flow of a modern day home. 

Open floor plan:  This is not one of the newest trends but continues to be one of the first thing buyers and builders ask for as well as being one of the major reasons why people do not consider buying a home.    

The good news for sellers in this Lake Norman market is that many of the homes are fairly new and have many of these flexibility-features already.  This is a great selling point and should be used to your advantage as you market your home.

2011 Statistics in Review….

 

Legend:
Lake Norman area consists of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville
3 towns are the 3 Lake Norman Mecklenburg County towns; Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson
Char-Meck is all of the Charlotte area that is listed on our MLS
HOMES SOLD
YEAR: 2011 2010 2009
Lake Norman 2,145 2,008 1,765
3 towns 1,321 1,229 1,070
Char-Meck 19,911 19,609 19,785
Since 2009 the number of homes sold each year has increased.  Low interest rates and sellers
discounting prices  over time has encouranged this activity.
AVERAGE PRICE
YEAR: 2011 2010 2009
Lake Norman $319,400 $330,700 $323,500
3 towns $314,700 $320,200 $314,800
Char-Meck $206,700 $213,200 $205,800
While 2010 saw a slight uptick in sale prices – 2011 was back at or close to the levels
of 2009.  High inventories in 2010 and length of time on the market caused heavily discounted prices.
The start of 2012 is showing lower inventories.  If we hold these lower inventories prices may be able to stabalize
or hopefully see an increase!
ACTIVE HOMES
Lake Norman 1,239
3 towns 682
Char-Meck 13,421
The first 6 months of 2011 saw the sale of 654 homes in the 3 towns area.
Adding in Mooresville we saw 1026 sales, and the Char-Meck area saw 9696 sales.
Of the sold homes in the Char-Meck area 2650 of them were special loan condition sales (forclosure/bankrupcy etc.)
The current inventory holds only 1972 of this type of home on the market – we hope these numbers
stay down for the benefit of the market.

Are Renters “Messing” with Property Values and Your Parents?

My parents have always lived in neighborhoods with no fancy name, HOA, golf courses or a club house. My parents grew up in apartment buildings (where 99.9% of people rented) in the Bronx and Brooklyn where everyone knew everyone.  As a matter of fact, that’s how my grandparents met. Later on, everyone migrated to single family homes in the burbs where again, everyone knew everyone.  Despite the fact that their neighborhood had no HOA, everyone felt a strong sense of community, there were no pink houses to speak of, everyone took pride in their homes and we always knew our neighbors…near and far. 

Upon visiting my parent’s house recently, I noticed a “for rent” sign in the front yard of their next door neighbor’s house.  I cringed as I imagined the “conversation” that must have ensued when my 77 year old father (100% Italian) saw the sign.  I am grateful I wasn’t there actually.  As I entered the house, I mentally prepared for his bad mood.  I waited to get my Mom’s attention and whispered “so, did Dad see the For Rent sign”?  She promptly called me a chicken and said “yes” then rolled her eyes.  As I suspected he had concerns about renters in his neighborhood; what it meant to the quality of the neighborhood and community, how they will probably never mow the lawn or properly care for the house and the hit to his property value.  “Are they trying to kill me?” he asked.  Despite this, my Dad truly is an intellect so the usual “Dad, don’t worry about it” doesn’t really work.  So as any good daughter would do…I researched it. 

Here is what I found.  An undisputable fact is that homeownership is trending downward right now. I couldn’t find evidence that renters or even an increased number of renters in a neighborhood as a cause of lowering property or resale values. Having said that, there were some anomalies in places where jobs relied solely on one industry – for example car manufacturing – where renting percentages were rising slightly above 1%. But overwhelmingly research showed that home vacancies are devastating for local property values.  What else effects property and resale value?

Location, Location, Location – Did this surprise anyone! The primary factor that determines property value is location.  Ask yourself the following questions about your property: 

  • Are their vacant homes near the property? This is considered to be devastating to your resale and property value.
  • Is the home in a good school district?
  • Are you close to shopping and restaurants?
  • Are you close to a cemetery?  As you’d suspect, much research has come back with the obvious…no one wants to live near a cemetery. 
  • What is your proximity to a park? 20% of couples are looking to live close to a park.   

Physical Characteristics of the Property – 

  • What is the square footage and plot size?
  • What is the age of the home?
  • Have there been renovations?  Are the renovations esthetically pleasing to most people or is it overly customized/individualized?
  • Has the interior had upgrades? For example the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Does it have Curb Appeal? Those homes with un-kept landscaping couldn’t even get folks in the front door!!

So what did I tell my Dad?  Basically that having a renter next to you may not be anyone’s first choice BUT having a vacant home next to you is not only bad for you property and resale values…vacant homes bring a host of other concerns, such as safety concerns due to the higher likelihood of criminal activity.  He seemed to understand and I think it’s safe to go back over there for a visit now!!!

Overlooked Problems in Home Inspections

Overlooked Problems in Home Inspections

Home inspectors aren’t guaranteed — or required — to catch every flaw in your next home. A home inspection is never a guarantee that your new home is going to be in perfect working order but being knowledgeable about the process can help you make sure you find out what you are really getting in the house you seek to purchase.

Roof leaks – One of the most significant things to get missed in a home inspection is a roof leak. This is because a home inspector doesn’t go onto the roof to check on its condition. Instead, an inspector generally examines the roof from ground level with binoculars or looks out higher windows to get a view of roofing below. Inspectors will note torn or missing shingles and nail pops that may or may not indicate a full-fledged problem. If you want to guarantee that you are buying a house with a durable roof, one suggestion is to hire a licensed roofing contractor to provide a full evaluation.

Faulty appliances     Part of a home inspection is checking that all major appliances are functioning properly. That being said, this is another top issue to be missed by a home inspector.  To confirm that all appliances work, the inspector should run each appliance through one or two cycles to make sure there’s no trouble, such as a leaking refrigerator or a smoking dryer.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning     Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) are one of the top problems that home inspectors can miss. Inspectors may be reluctant to run the air conditioning in extreme cold or to check the furnace in blistering heat. The inspectors do this because they do not want to do damage by running the unit too long in adverse conditions or they do not want to be held responsible for repairs if it breaks a few days after the new homeowner moves in.

When the home-inspection report is issued, it usually contains a disclaimer that relieves inspectors of this liability. To cover any glitches with your heating and cooling systems down the road, don’t be afraid to have the system checked by a licensed specialist separate from the home inspection. 

Under the carpet     Inspectors look for evidence of significant wear in plain view, but the things that can’t be seen pose a risk. Do not be shy about shadowing the home inspector to address the concerns you have about the house and probe what is under some potentially moldy carpet or issues that you may think is lurking behind paneling.  Ask your realtor if language can be added that buyers can seek sellers’ permission to remove superficial facades for the inspector to take a deeper look.

What you should do next     If the home inspector reports a problem with your dream home, the process should not end there. It is in your best interest to follow up on the problems to assess their severity.  Whether it’s a roof contractor or an air-conditioning technician you need to further investigate the problem. It may cost some money upfront, but that’s a savings compared with the thousands of dollars that unreported or unresolved problems could cost after the sale has been finalized.