The decline of today’s housing stock

by Dan Krell © 2013

Is the decline of today’s housing stock a concern or an opportunity?

new homeWhile taking part in a recent home inspection, the home inspector unexpectedly began to talk about the concern for today’s housing stock. After listening intently for a short time, I realized that his dissertation about the quality of existing homes was not just his opinion or home inspectors as a group, but rather a consensus of growing concern among housing experts of the condition of many older homes.

The issue that the home inspector pointed out is that much of the existing housing stock is aging without significant necessary maintenance or repair. Because the lifespan of many of home systems (including roofs and HVAC) range from 15 years to 30 years, as well as structural materials can have an average lifespan of 40 years; he surmised that homes that exceed thirty years of age are at significant risk.

As a home inspector, this gentleman has a unique perspective about how people take care of their homes; and unfortunately, many home owners have put off important and necessary maintenance and/or system replacements such that the home’s condition is considerably affected. And although he didn’t attribute the deteriorating housing stock with the recent recession, it is assumed that the recession contributed to the housing stock’s declining quality – if not accelerated it.

A February 2013 article by Kermit Baker for the Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies entitled “The Return of Substandard Housing” highlighted the relative considerable reduction in maintenance spending by home owners during the Great Recession. He stated that “improvement spending” decreased 28% between 2007 and 2011, which essentially “erased” such spending during the housing boom (

Mr. Baker concluded that this crisis needs attention, stating; “The longer-term fate of the current slightly larger number of inadequate homes is unknown. Many of these homes likely will be renovated to provide affordable housing opportunities. However, many may not recover without extra help. Given the extraordinary circumstances that many homes have gone through in recent years, particularly foreclosed homes that often were vacant and undermaintained for extended periods of time as they worked their way through the foreclosure process, they may be more at risk than their inadequate predecessors…

Considering the number of re-sale contracts that are falling out because of home inspections, this all makes sense. New home sales aside, many home buyers want “turn-key” homes that are updated with relatively new systems. It seems as if that home buyers don’t want to be burdened with major maintenance costs for the first five years of ownership. Some of the costly considerations that can put off home buyers are replacing a roof, windows, siding, and/or HVAC. Additionally, hazardous materials that can be commonly found in older homes (such as asbestos and lead paint) are becoming an increasing concern with first time home buyers.

The reason is uncertain, but during the “go-go” market of 2004-2006, a home’s condition didn’t seem to be as much of a concern for home buyers as it is today. However, one reason may be that during that period home equity loans were relatively easier to obtain to finance renovation projects.

The result of the deteriorating quality of the existing home stock may be that we may see declining values in homes requiring the most attention; such homes may either be renovated by home buyers, or might be razed to make way for a new home.

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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 the week of June 10, 2013 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Don’t delay home maintenance

by Dan Krell © 2013

Take action – consequences of deferred maintenance can hurt home sale.

Home MaintenanceAs we slowly emerge from one of deepest recessions that has hit in generations, one of the top issues facing home owners (especially those who plan a home sale) is deferred maintenance.  Although a lack of financial resources could be a main reason for postponing repairs and/or regular maintenance, other reasons for doing so may include a home owner’s lack of time as well as a home owner’s psycho-social issues getting in the way of carrying out maintenance (as in the case of severe hoarding).

Deferred maintenance in a home is simply putting off repairs and timely upkeep of its systems.  Delaying maintenance may turn today’s minor repair into tomorrow’s major problem.  Of course not all minor repairs turn into major issues, but even minor issues can be a nuisance.

Preventative maintenance can help prevent the elements from entering the home.  If delayed, issues can develop and affect other home systems.  Maintaining caulking and seals around windows and doors as well as flashing on roof components can prevent water penetration into the home.  Putting off repairs may allow water leaks, which can seep through walls and ceilings deteriorating drywall and even possibly weakening floor trusses/beams.  Openings in seals and caulking may also allow pests to enter the home, which can also create additional issues if not addressed.

Many home owners do not pay much attention to the exterior because they spend most of their time indoors.  The roof, gutters, and downspouts are often neglected due to a lack of awareness; many home owners don’t often check these systems and usually put faith in that they are doing their intended job.  Home owners may not even know there is a problem with these systems until it’s too late.  Water penetration from these systems can not only create problems as described above, but if left unchecked can also create problems in the basement and foundation.

Water does not have to penetrate from the exterior to create problems, it can originate from unrepaired plumbing leaks as well.  In addition to causing staining on walls and ceilings, plumbing leaks if left unattended may likewise, weaken floors.

Another regular maintenance item that is not often performed is HVAC servicing.  Ideally, a home’s furnace and air conditioning system should be serviced in spring and fall.  Regular servicing of the HVAC systems can not only possibly extend the systems’ life but also can help identify safety issues (such as carbon monoxide leaks in some systems).

Home MaintenanceDeferred maintenance issues often decrease a home’s value and can prevent a home from selling for top dollar; sometimes preventing a home from selling at all.  If you’re planning a sale and recognize that there may be deferred maintenance issues, you might ask your agent about having a pre-sale home inspection or home audit to determine the home’s condition and urgent repairs.  Your agent can provide guidance on repairs and pricing your home.

If you’re like many home owners, you might have deferred maintenance on your home.  Some experts recommend a “home audit” to determine your home’s condition.  It’s never too late to start budgeting for home maintenance; to meet regular and emergency maintenance needs, some experts recommend an annual savings of one to three percent of the home’s value. Planning ahead can make home maintenance easier as well allow you to make informed decisions to possibly lower your maintenance costs.

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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 the week of May 6, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Renovate your home with FHA 203k

FHA 203k
Renovate your home with a FHA 203k

If you’re like many home buyers, you’re probably looking for a home that is “turnkey” or an updated home that is ready to move right in.  However, since inventory is tight, competition can get intense.  But rather than passing on the “diamond in the rough,” consider the FHA 203k.

The FHA 203k is HUD’s rehabilitation loan.  The “203k” actually refers to the section within the National Housing Act that provides HUD with the ability “…to promote and facilitate the restoration and preservation of the Nation’s existing housing stock;” in other words provide mortgages to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes.  Although the program is not allowed to provide for “luxury” upgrades (such as hot tubs), the program may be used “…to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items…”

If you’re purchasing a home that is not a total rehab project, there is a streamlined version of the program that can assist you to purchase the home and provide additional funds (up to $35,000) for improvements and upgrades.  The FHA 203k-streamline is a “limited loan program” designed to provide quicker access to funds so your home move-in ready relatively quickly.

The “203k” process is relatively straight forward.  After identifying a home, you should consult your 203k lender and consultant about the feasibility of a FHA 203k.  A project proposal is prepared detailing a cost estimate for each repair/improvement.  During loan underwriting, the appraisal is completed to determine the value of the home after the proposed repairs/improvements are completed.  If the mortgage is approved, the home is purchased with the loan and the remaining funds are placed in escrow to pay for the project.

Much like a typical mortgage, you must qualify for the program by meeting underwriting standards for borrowers.  However, unlike the typical mortgage, additional underwriting requirements include review of architectural plans and repair estimates (materials and labor) from licensed contractors.  HUD approved consultants/inspectors examine and evaluate the project’s progress to ensure work is completed and compliant with HUD standards.  Funds for the repairs/renovations are released in draws to ensure the work is completed as intended as well as meeting all zoning, health and building codes.

Of course, the home must also meet eligibility guidelines.  The home: must be one to four units; must be at least one year old; and must meet neighborhood zoning requirements. The program allows for major rehabilitation on homes that have been razed provided that the foundation still exists.

But what if you’ve decided to renovate your home rather than move?  The FHA 203k allows for home owners to make renovations, updates, and sometimes additions.  The possibilities seem endless (as long as your vision stays within the loan limits).   Besides painting and updating kitchen and bathrooms, you could possibly even expand your existing house with an addition.  The FHA 203k even allows for many “green” upgrades to make your home more efficient.

FHA guidelines have been revised in recent years, and may undergo further revisions.  It is important for home buyers and others who are interested in the FHA 203k to consult with an approved FHA lender for borrower and home qualifying guidelines, loan limits and 203k acceptable improvements.  Additional information (including a list of lenders) can be found on the HUD website (

Original published at

By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

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 (, 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

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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.