What’s your relationship with your home; how homes impact our lives

by Dan Krell
© 2012

homesHave you considered your relationship with your home?  Just like the relationships we have with our family, friends, and acquaintances, we also have relationships with inanimate objects such as our cars, computers, and our homes.  Granted, the relationships we have with our cars and homes are not the same as our human relationships, and it may sound farfetched; but if you think about it for moment, these relationships can affect our moods and lifestyles just the same.

Your relationship with your home can sometimes make you feel satisfied or frustrated, and maybe both.  But chances are that you were not always ambivalent about your home.   At one time you might have thought your home was perfect.  Or you may have decided that you were ok with the quirks in the home because you once planned to fix them.

But the reality is that over time you change: your lifestyle changes; your use of space changes.  Likewise, your home changes too: the systems become less efficient; the rooms may feel too small/large; the kitchen becomes dated, etc.

Just like your human relationships, your home requires maintenance.  Regular maintenance of your home’s systems can help assure that you will be comfortable day to day.  Ignored systems can fail when you rely on them the most, leaving you miserable and wondering about your home.  Commonly ignored systems include (but certainly not limited to) HVAC and the roof.  Having a licensed HVAC professional check the home’s furnace and air conditioning as recommended may not only ensure the system works when you need it the most, but may also help lower energy bills.  Regular inspection of the home’s roof gutters and downspouts could prevent future water penetration issues.

homeOf course, as we continually change and develop, we want our relationships to grow as well.  So, it is possible that one day you might look around your home and feel that it’s time to spice up the relationship a little – You might be thinking of some renovations, updates, and possibly expanding the home.

Unless you plan to make renovations regularly, don’t make a mistake and focus solely on making your home “trendy.”  Before you decide on a major project, experts recommend you consult with a professional interior designer and/or architect to assist in making choices that can prolong the “freshness” of the renovation.

Kitchens and bathrooms are usually where the most money is spent, and that’s because those rooms tend to get the most traffic and use.  When designing a kitchen or bathroom, it is easy to go overboard on the renovation, but even a modest refurbishment can increase your enjoyment of the home.

As you renovate the interior, don’t give the exterior the short shrift.  Upgrading the home’s windows and siding not only increases the home’s efficiency, but may also increase the home’s curb appeal when it’s time to sell.

Relationships change and sometimes end; even the most meaningful ones.  This is no different with your home.  One day you may find that although your home may have sheltered you and your family without fail for many years, you may find that your needs may have changed; you may need more or less space, or may need to live in a different city.  And just like old friends, you may one day find yourself fondly thinking about your “old” home where you once lived.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of November 26, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

What’s the return on your investment?

by Dan Krell
© 2012

If you’ve been wavering over the decision to moving into a new home versus renovating your current home; or maybe you’re planning a sale this year and thinking of making improvements to improve the home’s appeal- here’s a resource to help. According to the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), you can get an idea of how much return on your investment you might get from some of the most popular renovation and addition projects that people undertake.

The 2011-2012 Cost vs Value Report, published annually by Remodeling Magazine, is now available and compares the top remodeling projects and the value that you might recoup at resale. The Cost vs Value ratios were collected for major cities/regions across the country. While project costs were obtained from a construction estimates database compiled by Home Tech Publishing, the project resale values were obtained through a National Association of Realtors® survey of appraisers, agents and brokers.

It is noted that a project Cost vs Value ratio is typically higher in “hotter” real estate markets, and can sometimes exceed 100% (recouping more than was spent on the project at resale). This idea is consistent with the annual Trends in Cost vs Value, which indicates that the average return on investment was higher when the housing market was at the peak in 2005. Of course a major reason for decline in the Cost vs Value ratio from the peak has been the retreat of home prices nationwide. There is speculation that since the national ratio decreased less this year than recent years, the housing market may be bottoming out.

Besides differences in local home prices, differences in regional Cost vs Value ratios can also be attributed to variances in labor and materials costs. Some experts point to a glut of construction workers who are seeking work as a reason for decreased labor costs in some areas; while material costs have not changed much or have become more expensive.

The Cost vs Value Report groups the Washington DC area in the South Atlantic region, which was ranked as the third highest Cost vs Value ratio out of nine regions. The South Atlantic region averaged a ratio of 67.3%, while the highest performing region was Pacific with a ratio of 71.3% was and the lowest performing region was the West North Central with a ratio of 49.5%.

Enough of the technical stuff…
The top Cost vs Value ratio midrange job for the Washington DC area is a garage door replacement, which is estimated to recoup about 93.2% of the cost at resale; followed by a wood deck addition, which is estimated to recoup about 91.3% of the cost at resale (compared to a composite deck addition which is estimated to recoup only 78.8% of the cost).

The top “upscale” project is a fiber-cement siding replacement, which is estimated to recoup 89.7% of the cost at resale (compared to foam backed vinyl siding, which is estimated to recoup only 78% of the cost). The “upscale” garage door replacement is estimated to only recoup 81.4% of the cost (compared to the replacement described above).

Additional projects and descriptions of the projects with costs can be viewed in the Cost vs Value Report. The full Washington DC area renovation/addition Cost vs Value report can be downloaded at costvsvalue.com.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 2, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Be Prepared to Repair Home Before You Purchase It!

by Dan Krell

The FHA mortgage has recently changed to accommodate the changing marketplace. Due to its broad availability and higher loan limits, the FHA mortgage is more prevalent now than it has been in the recent past. So, if you are a home buyer, it’s a good chance that you may be applying for a FHA mortgage to purchase your home.

You can expect the FHA underwriting to be flexible yet careful and thorough. You know that FHA underwrites your credit as a buyer, but did you know that FHA underwrites the property condition as well?

FHA underwriters and appraisers are required to assess a home for security, safety, and soundness. To protect your interests as a home buyer (security), as well as the interests of the FHA and lender, the home you are buying must meet minimum health and safety standards, as well as being structurally sound. Any deficiencies identified by the FHA appraiser will be required to be repaired prior to your closing (HUD.gov).

Having a home inspection may allow you to identify easily seen deficiencies within the home. If there are any safety or structural issues, you can be fairly certain that the FHA appraiser will see these as well and require these items to be repaired. However, since your home inspector is not an appraiser nor is the appraisal a home inspection (and having different purposes), there may be disparity between the two.

Items that are often identified by the FHA appraiser as needing repairs include (but not limited to): defective (peeling or chipping) paint surfaces in homes built before 1978; broken windows; roof having less than two years of useful life remaining; drainage problems; lack of handrails on stairwells of three or more steps; pest infestation; damaged and/or non-functioning electric, plumbing, or HVAC systems; foundation and structural defects; underground fuel (i.e., oil) tanks; and any other health or safety issue (fhainfo.com).

The FHA addendum (GCAAR form 1330 in this area) explains who is to make the required repairs: the buyer typically gives the seller notice what repairs are to be made. However, if the seller refuses to make the repairs the buyer has the option to make the repairs themselves. If both the buyer and seller refuse to make the repairs, the contract becomes void.

Many times, the buyer and seller negotiate as to how the repairs are to be made prior to closing. However, if you are purchasing a bank owned home, the bank usually prohibits the buyer from making any alterations to the home prior to settlement- including repairs.

If the home is in poor condition, however, the FHA appraiser will likely reject the home for FHA 203b financing. Don’t worry, though, you can apply for the FHA’s renovation mortgage (FHA 203k). Additionally, you can apply for a FHA 203k if the home you are purchasing is conveyed “as-is” (such as a bank owned home or short sale) and repairs are required. Be careful though, not all FHA lenders offer the 203k loan; you can find a FHA 203k lender at HUD.gov.
The FHA mortgage is an excellent way to finance your home purchase. However be prepared because property condition can sometimes turn a seemingly good deal into a no-deal.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 29, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.