12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

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Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

SEE JANE DRILL

11 Surprisingly Tiny Home Quirks That Can Stop a Sale in Its Tracks

By Jennifer Nelson | Sep 4, 2019

propped-open-window
realtor.com

Ever spend the night at a friend’s or relative’s house where they reveal some quirky shortcoming in their home? Say, the light switch in the guest room works the opposite way you’d expect (down for on, up for off), or you have to jiggle the toilet handle a few times to make it flush. These foibles might not seem like a big deal, but they could be—if you’re trying to sell your house.

“You can never predict what switch a buyer will turn on or what door a buyer will open,” warns Martin Eiden, a broker with Compass in New York City. “If one thing isn’t right, it sends a message to the buyer’s brain saying, ‘If this small thing is broken, what major things are?’

But what, specifically, are some of the most common quirks that could turn off buyers? Here are some of the flaws that you really should repair if you hope for a swift and smooth home sale.

1. Stuck front door

Don’t make it so the agent has to shove a shoulder into the front door to open it. You need a welcoming and well-working front door that swings open and closes smoothly without much effort. A carpenter can usually make a well-worth-it adjustment to the frame for sticky doors.

2. Wobbly ceiling fan

Ever see one of those wobbling, rattling fans in action? It’s not pretty. Tighten or replace ceiling fans that look like they are about to take flight from the ceiling, so they don’t send buyers running for cover.

3. Backward hot and cold water faucets

Nothing says failed DIY like cold water coming out when the hot water is turned on, and hot water coming out when cold is turned on, says Candice Williams, an agent with Re/Max Space Center in League City, TX. If you have switched faucets or pipes, set them right or hire a plumber.

4. Shaky banister

Check banisters, stair supports, and any railings to make sure they are secured properly.

The screws are about to fall out and your stair railing is so shaky the next guest could take a tumble. This issue is not only unsightly but also downright dangerous, says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a broker at KBN Homes, a real estate investment company in Frisco, TX, and author of “Winning Deals in Heels.”

5. Overstuffed closets

No squeaky doors and hinges or off-the-track rollers allowed.

“Have everything neatly organized and have all closets and cabinets at least 20% empty,” says Eiden. Overstuffed storage tells the buyer, “This home doesn’t have enough space!”

6. Cranky garage door

Make sure your garage door opens smoothly and without excess noise.

You might know how to get that garage door up, but you don’t want the agent struggling with it when he or she is showing the house,” says broker Robin Kencel of Compass in Greenwich, CT.

7. Noisy toilet

“A noisy toilet often just needs a new toilet flapper,” says Craig Russell, CEO of The English Contractor, a contracting and building firm in Cincinnati.

For under $10, you can ensure your toilet flushes well, because inevitably, someone will use the restroom at your open house.

8. Propped-up windows

Repair or replace windows that need to be propped open because their spring is shot.

Chess Valenti, a home stager at Staged in Geneva, IL, has seen bathroom windows propped open with shampoo bottles. This is not a look that gets offers.

9. Backyard gate that drags on the ground

You don’t want the agent opening the gate to your beautiful garden only to hear it scrape noisily on the pavers, concrete, or ground. Gates should be trimmed and adjusted over time so they continue to open smoothly about 2 inches off the ground.

10. Squeaky floors

Over time, nails in the subfloor loosen and rub, creating that squeak. If you can’t get to your subfloor easily to install a few screws, try sprinkling talcum powder around the noisy floorboards and sweeping into cracks in the floor to shush squeaks.

11. Unprofessional patch jobs

“Putty, caulk, and paint make the carpenter what he ain’t,” says Russell, referencing the liberal use of these materials by some sellers to put cosmetic bandages over imperfections in a home.

He’s seen holes filled with caulk instead of being properly patched, cardboard wedged into doors to keep them closed instead of having the lock adjusted, or painted-over water spots on walls or ceilings instead of repairing the source of the leak.

Have leaks and damage repaired properly, and make sure any cosmetic work looks like it was never done.Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value.

Jennifer Nelson lives and works in Neptune Beach, FL. She writes about health, home, and money for a variety of outlets, including AARP, NextAvenue.org, MSNBC, and WebMD.

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7 tips to ace your home’s final walk-through

Buying a home can feel a little like running a marathon. You have to stay focused throughout the whole journey, from the mortgage application and home search process to making an offer and getting a home inspection.

One important final step before the closing is the final walk-through. No matter what, you should never skip this critical task.

“You want to make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made,” says Andy Peters, a real estate broker and co-founder of The Peters Company, a Keller Williams Realty team serving Georgia. “If a seller is doing negotiated repairs or improvements, you want to verify they were, in fact, done and done correctly.”

You’re almost to the finish line — and the closing table. To get you there, here are some final walk-through tips.

Couple inspecting a fireplace in a home walk through

1. Understand that a final walk-through isn’t a home inspection

When you’re buying a home — whether it’s a condo, town house or a single-family home — you want to make sure the residence is in the condition you agreed to purchase.

“The purpose of a final walk-through is to make sure the home is still in the same, acceptable condition as when you last saw it, and to take a final look to make sure all repairs were completed, if needed,” says Alyse Alonso, a Realtor with eXp Realty in San Antonio, Texas. “You basically want to make sure the neighbor’s child did not accidentally hit their baseball through your soon-to-be new front window” or other surprise damages.

2. Know who attends the final walk-through

Typically, the final walk-through is attended by the buyer and the buyer’s agent, without the seller or seller’s agent. This gives the buyer the freedom to inspect the property at their leisure, without feeling pressure from the seller. If the property is a new home, a builder or contractor may attend.

“New-build walk-throughs are looking for defects as well as cosmetic issues. A new home is delivered in a more ‘fresh out of the box’ way, so expectations are generally higher,” Peters says.

If the home inspection uncovered significant issues that were fixed prior to closing, you may want to ask your home inspector to re-inspect the home to ensure agreed-upon repairs were made properly, Alonso says. Keep in mind, though, there will be an additional cost involved, and you might have to schedule the re-inspection before your final walk-through, she adds.

3. Schedule it just before closing

In most cases, the final walk-through is scheduled within 24 hours prior of the closing date. Your real estate agent can help you set a time with the seller’s agent when you can be sure the property will be accessible and (hopefully) vacant.

“Ideally, the final walk-through will take place on the way to the closing office or the evening before,” Alonso says, adding, “I have seen them take place a day or two before closing in certain circumstances.”

4. Do a walk-through again if bad weather hits

Mother Nature might not cooperate with your plans to close on a home, so if something significant happens — like a serious storm, nearby fire or earthquake — it’s smart to repeat the final walk-through before moving forward with the closing.

“Water intrusion, fallen trees causing damage and sinkholes are all things we’ve discovered at final walk-throughs,” Peters says.

Adds Alonso: “In some cases, the bank may not complete the loan until the damage is remedied. In other instances, the buyer and seller may be able to negotiate suitable repairs.”

5. Take your time

Depending on the size of the home, a final walk-through can take anywhere from 15 minutes for a small home to more than an hour for a larger property. Build in extra time to inspect extra items, such as a pool or a detached shed or garage. Remember that this is your last chance to give your new home a final once-over before it’s all yours, so don’t rush.

6. Communicate any issues you find during the final walk-through

Finding a significant problem during the final walk-through can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. More than likely, it may delay the closing by a few days to resolve the problem, or you’ll need to ask the seller to provide you with a credit at closing so you can handle the repairs after move-in day.

“Most issues can be worked out by negotiating more money. There is some gray area in terms of what you can use to hold up a closing,” Peters says. “Clearly if (the home is) not in the condition it was when you made the offer, the seller has to cure the issue if they want to sell.”

7. Final walk-through checklist and documentation

To ensure your soon-to-be home is move-in ready, here’s a checklist of things to do and look for during the final walk-through:

  • Turn all light switches on and off to ensure lights and ceiling fans are working.
  • Bring a phone charger to test all of the electrical outlets.
  • Run all sink and bath faucets, and check for any leaks.
  • Test all of the kitchen appliances and garbage disposal.
  • Ensure the garage door opens and closes, and the remote works.
  • Run the heater and air conditioner.
  • Turn on and test the fireplace.
  • Open and close all windows and doors.
  • Flush toilets to check for leaks or problems.
  • Run the exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen.
  • Inspect the walls, flooring and ceilings.
  • Check exterior for damage or new cosmetic issues.
  • Make sure all garbage, personal belongings and other items have been removed.

Your real estate agent should bring documentation to help confirm that all is as it should be with the property. This includes the seller’s disclosure form you received after signing the purchase agreement, the inspection report and any repair amendments you and the seller agreed on. Your agent should request receipts for any repairs the seller completed after the home inspection, too, and have those on hand during the final walk-through.

article credit: JENNIFER BRADLEY FRANKLIN 2019


Home inspection checklist: What you should prepare for

SARAH LI CAIN JUNE 17, 2019 

The seller has accepted your offer on your dream home and you’re ready to move in. Not so fast, though. Before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to be sure that your new home is in excellent condition. On the surface, it may look fine, but that doesn’t mean it is.

That’s why getting a professional home inspection is a critical step in the homebuying process.

“The idea is to give the buyer information so that it can help them make an informed decision in the purchase of the home,” says John Wall, a home inspector with Action Home and Building Inspections in Portland, Oregon.

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Man inspecting rood
SLRadcliffe/Getty Images

The seller has accepted your offer on your dream home and you’re ready to move in. Not so fast, though. Before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to be sure that your new home is in excellent condition. On the surface, it may look fine, but that doesn’t mean it is.

That’s why getting a professional home inspection is a critical step in the homebuying process.

“The idea is to give the buyer information so that it can help them make an informed decision in the purchase of the home,” says John Wall, a home inspector with Action Home and Building Inspections in Portland, Oregon.

Getting a home inspection can help instill more confidence in your purchase so you don’t wind up with buyer’s remorse. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about this step, along with a home inspection checklist that details what an inspection does (and doesn’t) cover.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is conducted by a certified home inspection professional who walks through the home and evaluates its condition. Home inspectors generally look at a home’s major components and systems (the furnace, air conditioning unit and foundation, for example) to determine if there are any issues that require immediate attention.

“Think of a home inspection as a non-invasive examination of a property,” Wall says. “They’re not intended to find every possible defect, rather major (problems) as well as safety issues.”

Think of a home inspection as a deeper insight into the home, whether it has been well-maintained or requires major repairs. The results of an inspection can help you decide whether to move forward with your purchase and be used as a bargaining tool with the seller.

“Once you get the report, be a savvy negotiator and use it to sweeten the deal,” says Mark Korr, owner of Korr and Company Home Inspections in Port Orange, Florida.

How to prepare for a home inspection

It’s crucial to know what your home inspector is looking for. Doing some homework ahead of time will help you ask in-depth questions about the home inspection report so you thoroughly understand the home’s condition and what issues need to be addressed.

A home inspection can take two or three hours to complete. A home inspector will provide you with a written report, a contract for service and a consumer notice. Home inspectors typically encourage buyers (or their real estate agent) to be at the inspection to discuss the findings in person and ask questions.

“The report is the report, but if I know (the buyer) a little, it’s much easier to explain the home in your terms,” Korr says.

Home inspection checklist

What home inspectors look for

While a professional home inspection checklist can vary, home inspectors are focused on a home’s physical components and systems — both inside and out. Knowing what your inspection does (and doesn’t) cover can help guide your next steps.

Here’s a home inspection checklist of items that your inspector will be looking for:

Exterior

  • Garages and/or carports
  • Exterior doors
  • Drainage, grading, plants and retaining walls
  • Wall coverings, flashing and trim
  • Driveways, patios and walkways
  • Balconies, decks, steps, porches and railings
  • Eaves, fascias and soffits (if visible)
  • Roof (including chimneys and other roof penetrations like skylights)
  • Downspouts and gutters

Interior

  • Doors and windows
  • Garage doors and operators
  • Installed kitchen appliances
  • Walls, floors and ceilings
  • Duct work
  • Cabinets and countertops
  • Foundation
  • Fuel burning fireplace and stoves

Plumbing

  • Water heater
  • Fixtures and faucets
  • Sump pumps
  • Sewage ejectors
  • Drain, vent and waste systems

Electrical

  • Service equipment, drops, grounding and main disconnects
  • Service cables, entrance conductors and raceways
  • Light fixtures, receptacles and power switches
  • Overcurrent protection devices
  • Circuit interrupters
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), including thermostats, vents, distribution systems, access panels, insulation and vapor retarders

What home inspectors don’t look for

A home inspector generally looks for components that are readily and easily accessible. Each state’s standards may differ so check with organizations such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and American Society of Home Inspectors to find out the specific requirements for your area.

The following items are typically not included on a professional home inspection checklist:

  • Rodents
  • Landscaping
  • Pests like termites and carpenter ants
  • Airborne hazards such as radon
  • Low-wattage electrical systems (alarm systems and phone lines)
  • Areas that aren’t easily accessible

Some home inspectors offer additional services, such as mold or carbon dioxide testing, but expect to pay additional fees for these specialized tests.

Who pays for a home inspection?

In most cases, you, the homebuyer, pay for the inspection at the time of service. While fees can vary depending on a home’s location, size and age, a home inspection costs an average of $300 to $450, according to Angie’s List.

Where to find a qualified home inspector

Finding a qualified home inspector can be as simple as asking your real estate agent, though it doesn’t hurt to do your own research. It’s best to find someone knowledgeable — or better yet certified — considering a home inspection is such a crucial part of the homebuying process

To find a reputable home inspector, use ASHI’s home inspector search tool or NACHI’s list of certified home inspectors. You’ll find more details about an inspector’s experience and construction background through these organizations.

Next steps

Depending on what turns up in your home inspection report, you’ll have a few options. If the home is in good condition and only requires minor fixes, you can simply move forward with the home purchase as planned.

If the report uncovers major issues, however, you’ll need to consider how serious they are and whether they’re deal breakers. For example, maybe the kitchen cabinets are showing a lot of wear and tear, so that’s something you may need to repair or replace. Assess your budget and desire to take on repairs — consider consulting a contractor or have a specialist come in to give you estimates.

It’s not possible to “fail” a home inspection, but the report could reveal major safety hazards or system failures, such as structural damage or a broken water heater, that could be expensive to fix. You can ask the seller to make repairs or negotiate on the price to account for these issues. If they refuse to budge and you have a home inspection contingency in your contract, you can walk away from the deal without penalty and get your deposit back.

Purchasing a home is probably one of the biggest life decisions you’ll ever make. Getting a professional home inspection comes with an upfront cost, but it’s worth every penny for the added peace of mind — and to avoid costly problems later.

What Is a Cape Cod House? Hint: It’s on the Monopoly Board

By Julie Ryan Evans | Jul 8, 2019

cape-cod-house

Countless Monopoly games have been won and lost over the placement of tiny green houses (as well as slightly larger red hotels, but that’s another story). But if you’ve ever inspected these pieces of plastic, you’d see that they’re actually miniature versions of the popular home architecture known as Cape Cod design. All of which begs the question: What is a Cape Cod house, anyway?

Characteristics of a Cape Cod house

These New England homes are named, of course, after Cape Cod—the place that gave them their start. This beloved vacation destination is located off the coast of Massachusetts and is known for its breathtaking beaches and quaint little towns.

In the 1600s, Cape Cod gave birth to its namesake style of home, which was built to withstand harsh New England winters. As such, cottages in Cape Cod typically had the following features:

  • A simple rectangular shape and small (one-story) size, though some Cape Cod house plans are one-and-a-half level or three-quarter Cape (Due to the extreme cold of New England winters, the smaller the cottage, the easier and less expensive it was to heat.)
  • A steep, slanted, gabled roof (sometimes side-gabled) to help snow melt off
  • A central chimney in the middle of the home (all the easier to heat the space) connected to fireplaces in many rooms
  • Cedar shutters and shake shingles to protect against strong winds
  • Double-hung, multipane windows
  • Low ceilings, which also help conserve heat
  • A simple floor plan with a front door opening to a central hall, offering equal space on either side for living and dining rooms
  • No porch, roofline, or other ornamentation (except for simple clapboard siding, shingles, and shutters) (A typical early Cape home wouldn’t have dormers, though later iterations might include two symmetrical ones.)

Postwar Cape Cod boom

After soldiers returned home from World War II, Boston architect Royal Barry Willis was instrumental in the spread of Cape Cod homes in suburbs across the United States—starting in New England and moving westward. Young families flocked to them because of their affordability, especially during the Great Depression.

Modern takes on the Cape Cod style

The Colonial-era Cape Cod home style is still going strong today, both in New England and other parts of the country. A Cape Cod uses many different construction materials for roofs and siding, and may add features like porches or gables, but it retains the style’s traditional characteristics. Below is a gorgeous example of a Cape Cod–style home with dormers and a chimney in the Pacific Northwest:

Key Peninsula Residence
Photo by David Vandervort Architects

Capes fall into the midrange cost when it comes to building, as you can lose some livable space because of the architectural style (namely, the steep roof and its rafters). Still, it’s considered an affordable and practical housing style for both a main residence or a summer home, plus it features Colonial Revival flair.

If you want the feel of a New England Cape, a Cape Cod–style house may be available to shop for wherever you live. Or at the very least, you can divulge some fun trivia related to Cape Cod–style homes during your next Monopoly game.

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from politics to pop culture and beyond. She loves running, reading, cold wine, and hot weather. Follow @julieryanevans

15 best questions to ask when buying a house

SARAH LI CAIN JUNE 25, 2019

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict editorial integrity, this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for how we make money.

House for sale

Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Before making an offer on a house, you want to be absolutely sure that it’s “the one.” But with so many options out there, how do you find your perfect match?

Finding the right home involves research, so you’ll need to ask the right questions. That way you know you’re making a competitive offer on a home that you can afford — and meets your long-term needs.

To weed out the duds from the diamonds, here are 15 questions to ask when buying a house.

  1. What’s my total budget?
  2. Is the home in a flood zone or prone to other natural disasters?
  3. Why is the seller leaving?
  4. What’s included in the sale?
  5. Were there any additions or major renovations?
  6. How old is the roof?
  7. How old are the appliances and major systems?
  8. How long has the house been on the market?
  9. How much have homes sold for in the neighborhood?
  10. Are there any health or safety hazards?
  11. What’s the history of past insurance claims?
  12. What are the neighbors like?
  13. How is the neighborhood?
  14. Are there any problems with the house?
  15. How much will I pay in closing costs?

1. What’s my total budget?

It could be a waste of time to start looking at houses without understanding how much house you can afford. There are additional costs to consider other than the sales price, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, ongoing home maintenance and any renovations you want to do.

“With all the other added expense that comes with homeownership like repairs and homeowner’s association fees, you may not see the financial benefits for several years,” says Wendy Mays, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Chula Vista, California.

Showing the seller you have the financial means to buy their house is important if you want your offer to be accepted. This means getting preapproved for a mortgage.

“Not only does it give the buyer an idea of what they can afford but it gives the Realtor assurance that they’re showing a qualified buyer a home,” says Joey Sampaga, a Realtor with Keller Williams Legacy One in Phoenix. “It shows you’re not wasting the seller’s time.”

2. Is the home in a flood zone or prone to other natural disasters?

A property that’s in a flood zone or other natural disaster area may require additional insurance coverage. For example, homes that are located in a federally-designated, high-risk flood zone require flood insurance. (Find out whether a property is in a high-risk flood zone using FEMA’s Flood Map Service.)

Likewise, if you’re buying a home in California where earthquakes are common, you may need to get earthquake insurance. Another tip: Make sure you purchase enough homeowners insurance to cover the cost of completely rebuilding your home if it’s destroyed. If you’re underinsured, you could be left footing a massive bill to repair or rebuild your home if a major disaster hits.

3. Why is the seller leaving?

Understanding why the seller is moving — whether it’s due to downsizing, a job relocation or as a result of a major life event — might help you figure out how motivated they are when negotiating. A good buyer’s agent will try to find out this information for you and gauge how flexible (or not) the seller might be during negotiations. A motivated seller who needs to move quickly or whose home has been on the market a while is more likely to work with you than someone who isn’t in a rush to move.

4. What’s included in the sale?

Anything that’s considered a fixture is typically included when purchasing a house — think cabinets, faucets and window blinds. However, there could be items that you think are included with the home but actually aren’t. This depends on your state’s laws. The listing description should spell out any exclusions that the seller is not including, but that’s not always the case.

Make sure to ask in your offer what is (and isn’t) included with the home. Do you really want the washer and dryer, or that stainless-steel refrigerator? Ask if the seller will throw these items into the deal.

5. Were there any additions or major renovations?

In some cases, property records and listing descriptions don’t always match up. A home might be advertised as having four bedrooms, but one of those rooms may be a non-conforming addition that doesn’t follow local building codes. Find out what major repairs or renovations the seller has done since owning the home, and request the original manufacturer warranties on any appliances or systems if those have been replaced. Knowing a home’s improvement history can help you better gauge its condition and understand the seller’s asking price.

6. How old is the roof?

Let’s face it: roofs are necessary and expensive. If a home’s roof is at the end of its lifespan and you wind up having to replace it shortly after move-in, you’ll be shelling out thousands of dollars. Ouch. If the roof has existing damage, your lender may require that it be repaired in order to approve your loan. In other words, if the listing description doesn’t list the roof’s age, make sure to find out ASAP to avoid a costly headache later.

7. How old are the appliances and major systems?

Again, understanding the anticipated lifespan of essential systems and appliances, such as the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and stove, can help you anticipate major repair or replacement expenses. If these items are already at the end of their lifespan or near it, ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, which can help cover the replacement costs in certain instances.

8. How long has the house been on the market?

The longer a house has been on the market, the more motivated the seller will be to make a deal. This means you might find flexibility to negotiate the price, contingencies, terms and credits for replacing outdated carpet or other noticeable issues.

Many times, a home will languish on the market if it was priced too high at the onset, resulting in the need for multiple price reductions. A listing that shows multiple price cuts and has been sitting on the market too long may give buyers the impression that something is wrong with it. And that gives you a prime opportunity to negotiate a deal.

9. How much have homes sold for in the neighborhood?

Understanding the current local market will help you determine if a seller’s asking price is on target — or way too high. Your Realtor can pull the comparable listing data for similar homes that are currently on the market and have sold in the last six months or so as a basis for comparison.

“If conditions support further negotiating, consider (making) a lower offer or even concessions like asking the seller to pay for some closing costs,” Mays says.

10. Are there any health or safety hazards?

Items like lead paint, radon, mold or other major hazards can be costly to address and hold up your loan approval. Ask the seller to provide documentation if there have been past issues and find out exactly what was done to resolve those problems. If you suspect hazardous problems or a home inspector suggests additional testing, you might need to pay extra for those specialized services.

11. What’s the history of past insurance claims?

Get a copy of a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or C.L.U.E., report from the seller to see if there have been any homeowners insurance claims filed in the last seven years. This report can give you an insight into what, if any, damage the home has sustained from a weather event or vandalism that a home inspection doesn’t catch or a seller fails to mention.

12. What are the neighbors like?

Getting the true feel of a neighborhood can be difficult before moving in, but this aspect shouldn’t be overlooked. Ask the seller what the neighbors are like. Noisy or quiet? Is it a pet-friendly place or are there few pets around? Are the existing neighbors friendly or more likely to keep to themselves? Don’t rely solely on the seller to reveal these details because you might not get the full story.

“Drive the neighborhood and stop and speak with neighbors,” Mays suggests. “Neighbors are an excellent way to get information about the community that a seller might not want to share.”

13. How is the neighborhood?

You can always change a house and fix things you don’t like, but the neighborhood is there to stay. It’s important that you like the environs you’ll be living in for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Your Realtor can help you find out key information, such as community amenities, crime statistics, school ratings and how busy traffic is where you’ll be living.

Thankfully, the internet is also a great resource where you can research schools, homeowners association rules (if applicable), nearby parks and other amenities. And don’t forget to time your commute to work — which might be a deal breaker.

14. Are there any problems with the house?

Sellers are required to provide a disclosure form listing any known defects, but what they don’t disclose and you don’t know can lead to major issues later. That’s why it’s critical to get a home inspection done by a professional home inspector as soon as a purchase agreement is signed.

The inspection report outlines the home’s overall condition and can help you negotiate future concessions, such as repairs or seller-paid credits, before closing the deal. If a home has too many problems and you included a home inspection contingency, you’ll be able to back out of the deal without penalty and (in most cases) get your earnest deposit returned.

15. How much will I pay in closing costs?

The down payment isn’t the only cash you’ll be forking over on closing day. You’ll also be responsible for closing costs, which typically include loan origination fees and third-party fees for title research, processing of paperwork, an appraisal and other administrative tasks. Expect to pay around 2 percent to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price in closing costs, but that can vary depending on your area.

The closing disclosure, which a lender is required to provide you three business days before closing, will spell out all of your loan fees and how much cash you’ll need to close.

“Once the closing documents are signed by both parties and the escrow company sends it to the lender, the lender will fund the loan,” Sampaga says. “Now you’re a homeowner.”

Advertiser Disclosure

Doing This One Thing Before Putting Your Home on the Market Can Help Sell It Faster

By Wendy Helfenbaum | Jul 17, 2019

preinspection
AndreyPopov/iStock; realtor.com

You’ve lived in your home for years and haven’t exactly been on top of regular maintenance tasks. Now, your windows are covered in plastic wrap to cut down on the cold drafts, your ceiling seems to be leaking, and those shrubs you planted to conceal a few small cracks in the foundation just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Hey, we’re not judging! But if you’re ready to put your home up for sale, know this: Buyers and their agents are going to zero in on all those things that need doing—as well as some things you hadn’t even noticed yourself.

So why not get ahead of the curve by hiring a licensed home inspector who can pinpoint what needs fixing?

Of course, most sellers don’t get their homes inspected before listing them, because the buyer usually orders an inspection during escrow, says Marc Lyman, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego. And who wants to pay for something they don’t have to?

But if you’re willing to invest the time and money, a thorough inspection before listing your property can make it easier to price your home, manage repairs, and even help sell it faster—and for more money.

So what are the some of the reasons why a pre-listing inspection makes sense? Let’s take a look.

It can save you if you’ve neglected home maintenance

If you have a busy life—or maybe even if you don’t—chances are that obsessing over regular home maintenance might not be your No. 1 priority during downtime. Trouble is, letting painting, roof repairs, and other routine chores slide can lead to bigger issues down the road, says Chicago-based Frank Lesh, ambassador for the American Society of Home Inspectors.

“In a lot of cases, people think, ‘I’ve been here for 30 years; the house is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it,’” he says. “But they’re looking at it with rose-colored glasses.”

Instead of worrying what a buyer’s inspector will uncover—and which could potentially kill the sale—be proactive with a pre-listing inspection, Lesh says. This way, rather than being blindsided, you can then decide whether to make the necessary repairs or to account for that deferred maintenance by reducing the list price. Which leads us to…

You can make a bigger profit on your sale

Sure, a home inspection that you don’t have to do is going to cost money. (An inspection for a 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot house in an average market, for instance, will cost between $350 and $600, Lesh says.) But as the saying goes: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

After all, if you invest a little more to repair and spruce up anything the pre-inspection reveals, you can justify listing your home at a higher price, Lyman says. Plus, he adds, in most states, home improvement repairs you carry out before selling your house are deductible from the profit you make from the sale.

Sometimes, just knowing that a pro has given the house a proper once-over can persuade a buyer to make a bid (assuming that you actually follow the inspector’s recommendations).

“It minimizes surprises for a buyer, and can give a buyer more confidence in the property,” Lyman says.

You won’t have to scramble to fix things at the last minute

Once a buyer’s inspector submits a report, sellers are usually faced with two choices: If problems are found with the house, they can then either slash money from the sale price, or opt to carry out repairs before the closing date. That often leaves sellers in the lurch, having to get work done pronto—and sometimes paying a premium for the rush work.

After a pre-listing inspection, sellers can research contractors and make the necessary repairs within a time frame of their choosing, so that everything is ready before potential buyers even visit the property.

It’ll minimize back-and-forth negotiation

Buyers often use their home inspection as leverage, asking the seller (that’s you!) for steep discounts based on what their inspector’s report reveals. Not surprisingly, the buyer’s inspection is often where the deal falls apart.

If you’ve already uncovered the issues and addressed them, you can raise the price of your home accordingly, Lyman says. “That gives the buyer less leverage in the request for repair process,” he explains.

Also, in red-hot markets where multiple bids come fast and furious, there’s always a chance that buyers might accept your pre-listing inspection without insisting on doing their own. This can make for a quicker sale, Lesh says.

But make sure a pre-inspection doesn’t work against you

As advantageous as a pre-inspection can be, don’t forget that the inspector’s report could be a double-edged sword: Once you know about a problem, you can’t ignore it, Lyman says.

Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any problems that a home inspection unearths.

“For sellers unwilling to do repairs, their own inspection could be used as leverage to negotiate on price and in the request-for-repair process,” he says.

Before committing to a pre-inspection, find out what other sellers in your area are doing. Your agent can help guide you on whether it’s necessary to sell for more, or if there’s a better—and more affordable—strategy for getting your home sold.

Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value.

Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture and design, DIY, gardening, and travel. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Metropolis, Costco Connection, Garden Collage, Parenting, Canadian Living, Canadian Gardening, and more. Follow @wendyhelfenbaum

Home Inspection: Find out what an Inspector is looking for

Article Credit: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/home-inspection

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, the home inspection can make you sweat. Before you get too worked up, take a deep breath and realize that a home inspection isn’t a pass or fail thing. In fact, no home inspection will yield perfect results.

But some inspection reports are more concerning than others, and it’s important to know if an issue is a minor repair or a money pit. Here’s everything you need to know about home inspections!

What Is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are a vital part of the home-buying process because they help the buyer avoid any surprises with the home they are purchasing. A home inspection includes an evaluation of structural elements, electrical features, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

A qualified home inspector will look for any health and safety problems, as well as any positive or negative property conditions. When the inspection is complete, the home inspector will provide a written, comprehensive report that details any issues with the home.

A buyer would be crazy to skip the home inspection. That’s why a good real estate agent will make sure it is part of the home-buying contract.  

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The buyer pays for the home inspection. The cost can vary, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that it may cost a home buyer $300–500 for a home inspection. That may sound steep, but paying a few hundred dollars is worth it to avoid a costly surprise down the road!

If you’ve been searching for your dream home, there’s nothing like the relief of finally being under contract. Now the only thing standing between you and your perfect place is the home inspection. And frankly, you’re a little nervous. What if it flunks the test?

Home Inspection Red Flags for Buyers

Whether or not your new home gets a passing grade is up to you—not the home inspector—because you’re the one holding the purse strings. So what are some inspection issues that should make you think twice? Here are five signs your dream home may be more of a curse than a blessing.

Buyer Red Flag #1: Outdated Electrical Wiring

With today’s families using more gadgets than ever, it’s important to ensure your home’s electrical system isn’t past its prime. An upgrade may be due if your home inspector finds overloaded outlets or a panel that’s wired with too many circuits. Pay close attention to aluminum wiring if it shows up on your home inspection report. It was used between 1965 and the mid-1970s in place of copper, and it poses a dangerous fire hazard due to the potential of overheating at connections.

Buyer Red Flag #2: Foundation Damage

Do you remember the parable about the wise man who built his home upon the rock? If there’s one lesson we learned from that story, it’s that your foundation counts! Every home experiences some degree of settling. A qualified home inspector can tell you when a seemingly minor crack spells major trouble. Watch out for bulging or bowing foundation walls, which is a sign of structural weakness that can be expensive to repair.

Buyer Red Flag #3: Septic Tank Failure

If your new home comes with a septic tank, make sure trouble isn’t bubbling below the surface. A septic tank that fails can cost thousands of dollars to replace. That’s a stinky way to start life in your new home! Foul odors, slow or gurgling drains, and standing water are common symptoms of a septic tank that needs TLC.

Buyer Red Flag #4: Water Intrusion

Water is often called the source of life, but it can wreak havoc when it creeps into places it shouldn’t. Your home inspector should investigate any water stains to determine if there’s an active leak and to check for the presence of mold. A brown spot on the ceiling, for instance, may indicate a faulty roof, while stains on basement walls can clue you in to drainage issues—and neither are a cheap fix.

Buyer Red Flag #5: Mold

A home plagued by mold isn’t just gross—it can affect your health. You can typically clean up areas of mold that cover less than 10 square feet on your own without breaking the bank. But extensive growth requires professional help. The cost of removing mold from crawl spaces, walls and ducts can easily be thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of the damage.

See a Red Flag in Your Home Inspection?

Just because your home inspector uncovers an issue doesn’t guarantee the seller will fix it. Ultimately, you decide whether to walk away or negotiate with the seller, and a lot of that depends on your budget and willingness to take on a major home improvement project.

An experienced real estate agent can help you navigate the findings and set priorities for moving forward.

Home Inspection Tips for Sellers

If you’re selling a home, you may think that home inspection red flags don’t apply to you. While you may not be weighing pros and cons of repair items like potential buyers, a surprise at that point in the process can wreck a deal. And once you’re under contract with buyers, do you really want to go back to square one because a patch of mold or an electrical issue sent the buyers running?

After working so hard to attract buyers with a move-in-ready home, the last thing you want is to lose a sale because your home inspection turns up a red flag. So, what’s a savvy seller to do?

Shawna Smith, a real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) in Louisville, Kentucky, offers some simple suggestions for surviving the home inspection with your pride—and price—intact.

Seller Tip #1: Know What You’ve Got Before You Go to Market

Surprises are great—just not when they show up on a home inspection. That’s why Shawna says it’s a good idea to get your own pre-sale inspection before planting the for-sale sign out front, especially if your home is in questionable condition. A qualified inspector should perform a four-point inspection of the roof, HVAC, basic electrical, and basic plumbing to avoid a lowball offer out of the gate.

“Make sure you keep good maintenance records on your mechanicals , plumbing and electrical repairs, and you know the condition of your roof,” Shawna says. “The seller does have to either disclose or repair any issues found during the pre-sale inspection, but it allows you to decide if you will price your home as-is or to make repairs to get it closer to market value.”

If your listing agent doesn’t offer a pre-inspection option, be prepared to deal with costly repairs or to lower the price if major issues are uncovered when the buyer conducts their inspection. You may find yourself having to wait until you can afford to fix the problem areas before your home can sell at the price you need to move on.

Seller Tip #2: Know When to Fix Your Fixer-Upper

So how do you know which repairs are necessary to close the deal? The buyer’s appraiser may require certain improvements for the sale to go through based on the buyer’s loan and the value of your home. A seasoned real estate pro can help you make the call, but a few key areas take priority.

The same areas a home inspector evaluates—electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC—are the ones you may have to prioritize when it comes to repairs.

“The electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC should be in good working condition when a property is transferred,” Shawna says. “I always recommend hiring licensed professionals for these types of repairs so the buyers will feel confident about the condition of their new home.”

A major fix may feel out of reach if your money is tied up in equity, but you can still bring options to the table. Why not work with your agent to gather a few professional quotes for the repair and offer cash at closing or a discount on the sales price to cover the cost? Giving the buyer a choice is always a winning approach because they like having control over the outcome. It also shows you’re willing to meet them in the middle.

Know Who to Call for Advice

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, a less-than-perfect home inspection certainly complicates things. After all, it’s difficult to tell when to spend the money to fix an issue and when to negotiate a compromise. That’s why you need an experienced agent who can guide you through the rough patches and help you come up with a solution.

Looking for a high-octane real estate agent who can help you buy or sell a home? We can connect you with the top real estate pros in your local market!

Paint Care Inc.

Drop-Off Sites

It’s more convenient than ever to recycle paint in Maine. Since the start of the Maine paint stewardship program in October 2015, PaintCare has set up 117 convenient locations to drop off paint throughout the state. Most of these sites are at paint retailers (paint, hardware, and home improvement stores) that have volunteered to take back paint, and they are available to any household and business in Maine. These stores accept paint whenever they are open for business

Some PaintCare drop-off sites are household hazardous waste programs, either facilities or “round-up events.” These programs are run by local county or city government agencies, often in partnership with the local garbage and recycling company or transfer station. In addition to paint, these programs usually accept other hazardous wastes such as pesticides or solvents.

Most government programs limit participation to households in certain cities or towns. Some also allow businesses to make appointments during during special hours. Businesses are usually charged fees for non-paint hazardous waste, and sometimes they are charged an administrative fee to schedule an appointment. However, they are not charged for paint on a per gallon basis if the agency is a PaintCare partner.

A few restrictions apply: there are limits on how much paint can be dropped off per visit. Also, note that certain businesses–those that produce more than 220 pounds (about 20-30 gallons) of hazardous waste per month–can only drop off latex paint (they may not drop off oil-based paint). When you decide it’s time to recycle your paint, please call the site ahead of time to confirm their hours and to make sure they have space to accept the amount of paint you would like to recycle.

Products We Accept

PaintCare sites accept:

  • house paint
  • primers
  • stains
  • sealers
  • clear coatings (e.g., shellac and varnish) 

The architectural paint products we accept are referred to as “PaintCare Products” and must be in containers that are no larger than 5 gallons in size. PaintCare Products must be in their original container with original label and secure lid. PaintCare does not accept spray paint (aerosols) or anything in containers larger than 5 gallons. We cannot accept open or leaking cans. Please review our detailed list of PaintCare Products vs. Non-PaintCare Products.

Fees

PaintCare programs are funded by a fee (referred to as the PaintCare fee) which is applied to the purchase price of new paint sold in the state. You may see a line item on your receipt or invoice for each container of paint you purchase. The fee is paid to PaintCare by paint manufacturers. This fee is then added to the wholesale and retail purchase price of paint, passing the cost of managing post-consumer paint to everyone who buys paint.

There is no charge for dropping off paint at a PaintCare drop-off site.

The PaintCare fee is not a tax; it does not go to the state to operate the program The PaintCare fee is also not a deposit; you don’t get it back when you drop off paint–a common misunderstanding.

Fees fund all aspects of the paint stewardship program. This includes paint collection, transportation, recycling, public outreach, and program administration, and to manage “legacy” paint, material that has been accumulating in homes and businesses from before the program started.

Effective December 1, 2018, sales tax is not applied to the PaintCare fee in Maine. The fees are based on container size as follows:

Container SizeFee
Half pint or smaller$0.00
Larger than half pint up to smaller than 1 gallon$0.35
1 Gallon$0.75
Larger than 1 gallon up to 5 gallons$1.60

Program Brochure

PaintCare’s program brochure is intended for the general public. To request free paper copies of this brochure for you or others, please contact us at 855-PAINT09. In addition to paint stores, other organizations (e.g., government agencies, real estate agents, property managers, painting contractors) are welcome to order brochures and distribute to others.