After you move in

after you move in
After you move in

Moving into your new home is exciting.  You just went through an intensive process that tested your character.  You feel a sense of relief it’s over.  But the work is not over, it’s just beginning.  What you do after you move into your new home can help maintain its value. It also can save you time, money, and keep your home functioning.

Of course, there are the standard items that needs immediate attention after you move in.  Changing the locks is the number one item on the new homeowner list for obvious reasons.  Deep cleaning the home is a task that is also performed, especially if the previous owner had pets.  Keep all warranty information, including a home warranty policy (if you have one), in a safe place so you can find it if you need it.  Make sure you know where the water shut off valve and the main electrical breaker is located in case of an emergency.  Change of address forms from the USPS need to be completed to ensure you receive your mail.  A visit to the DMV is necessary to change the address on your driver’s license. 

But what else can you do after you move in to make life easier in your new home?  Revisit your home inspection report.  If the home seller made repairs, make sure you keep those invoices (your agent should have asked for those receipts prior to closing).  If there is a problem with any of the repairs, you can call the associated contractor to reinspect the repair.  However, it’s likely that the seller didn’t repair everything in the inspection, or maybe they didn’t repair anything.  Review the report to see which items require your immediate attention, or may require attention within the year.  Make sure you install any missing safety items (such as smoke and carbon dioxide detectors).  Taking care of the urgent items immediately will likely prevent expensive repairs down the road.  Keep the list of items likely needing attention in the future, so you can check them when you conduct regular maintenance.

Next on the list , after you move in, is to create a maintenance schedule.  For most new home owners, maintenance seems to be a dirty word.  After all, you just moved in and the last thing you want to focus on is “upkeep.”  But putting off repairs can make the likelihood of damage to your home and repair expense increase over time.  Research has even verified that deferred maintenance lowers your home’s value.  Your home inspection report also should have information about maintaining systems such as (but not limited to): HVAC, electric, plumbing, roof, and exterior.

If you haven’t yet created a maintenance budget, do it now.  Some of the systems may need replacing sooner than others.  Check your home inspection report for the systems’ age and average life expectancy.  Start saving to replace systems (HVAC, roof, etc.) so it’s not as much of a financial burden when the time comes to replace them.

Life happens and so does the occasional surprise.  It is not uncommon for maintenance and other “surprises” to occur your first year in the home.  Although it may seem correct to blame the home inspector, they are not perfect.  They are limited to what they can see.  “Surprises” often occur in a system or area that was not observable during the time of the inspection.  It is my experience that home inspectors make themselves available within the first year of ownership to answer questions relating to their report.  Some will even reinspect the item in question. 

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/04/09/after-you-move-in/


By Dan Krell. Copyright © 2019.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Occam’s razor home selling

Occam's razor and selling a home
Staging is one of the four basics of home selling. (infographic from nar.realtor)

Many home owners are preparing to sell their homes this year.  And in doing so, home sellers are looking for new and exciting ways to sell their homes fast and for top dollar.  But the reality is that selling a home is not rocket science.  There really isn’t a secret trick or approach to selling a home.  Rather, it’s more like magic, where properly performed fundamental tasks can set the stage for a satisfying experience. If you don’t know how Occam’s razor (or what it is) can help you get the most from your home sale, pay close attention.

Unfortunately, it’s a human trait seek a complex solution to a simple question.  In other words, applying Occam’s razer to your home sale can save you time and allow you to get out of your own way.  Occam’s razer is a tool that is often used to figure out solutions and devise scientific theories.  It has become popularized as the “keep it simple stupid” method.  However, Susan Borowski’s history and explanation of Occam’s razor, written for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, gives it teeth (The Origin and Popular Use of Occam’s Razor; aaas.org; June 12, 2012).  Borowski states, “Occam’s razor doesn’t necessarily go with the simplest theory, whether it’s right or wrong; it is not an example of simplicity for simplicity’s sake. It merely tries to cut through the clutter to find the best theory based on the best scientific principles and knowledge at the time.”

In other words, focus on the tried and true fundamentals of selling a home.  Anything above and beyond may not necessarily help to sell the home faster or for more money, but could help make the process more enjoyable.  That in mind, let’s consider these four basic concepts:

First, consider the condition of your home.  Do you have deferred maintenance issues?  Does your home need a makeover?  Homes that get top dollar are “turnkey.”  Many home buyers are willing to compete and pay more for recently upgraded and renovated homes.  Selling a home with deferred maintenance or lacking recent updates can not only turn off many home buyers, but can encourage low-ball offers.  A pre-listing home inspection can help you identify maintenance issues.  Also, consider consulting with a design professional to help you understand which updates (if any) are necessary to help your home sale.

Next, work on the home’s presentation to give it a clean and spacious feel.  Decluttering is one of those tasks that can be overwhelming, but it’s importance cannot be overstated.  Decluttering will force you to decide which items to keep in the home.  Additionally, staging your home can help balance space, furniture and décor.  This can help home buyers envision living in the home.

Deciding on a list price is often a conundrum.  Although enticing, don’t be seduced by the agent who tells you the highest sales price without understanding their rationale.  The housing market can turn on a dime.  If your home isn’t priced correctly, it can languish on the market.  There are many aspects that go into deciding a price, so work with a respected seasoned agent to go through the market details and scenarios. 

Finally, when the home is ready to list, how is it to be marketed?  Today’s MLS listing syndication takes advantage of the fact that most home buyers actively search homes on the internet. Don’t rely on gimmicks that promise activity on your listing.  A complete marketing plan will take into account the factors we discussed here, and apply strategies to attract motivated home buyers.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/occam’s-razor-home-selling

By Dan Krell. Copyright © 2019.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Municipal infraction and your home

municipal infraction
Municipal infractions result from neglect repairs and maintenance (infographic from census.gov)

A common home buyer preference is to buy a home that is not within the confines of a HOA or condo association.  Maybe the home buyer’s impression is that HOAs and condo associations bully home owners.  But the truth is that HOA and condo association rules are created for a number of reasons, which include health and safety.  If you don’t comply with the community rules, they can compel you do so.  But even if you don’t live in an association managed community, it’s your civic duty to comply with county and/or municipal ordinances to maintain your home. Disregard for civic responsibility may result in a municipal infraction.

Believe it or not, regardless of where your home is located, your home has to satisfy health and safety standards that are enforced by your municipality (e.g., Montgomery County, City of Rockville, City of Gaithersburg, etc.).  Deferred home maintenance can surely affect the value of your home.  However, if it is found that your home doesn’t meet code standards, you can receive a notice of a municipal infractions.

Municipal infractions are also another name for code enforcement.  In his manual Municipal Infractions and Code Enforcement, Practice and Procedure for Municipalities in the State of Maryland, Frank M. Johnson stated the need for having such procedures by saying:

“Most persons will follow the law voluntarily, but the reality is that when a law isn’t enforced, it becomes less effective for everyone. Even those who voluntarily comply are less likely to take a law seriously when it’s known the law won’t be enforced. In addition, steps to enforce the law often involve the most serious violations which, if not corrected, can lead to results which have a significant community and neighborhood impact.”

Mr. Johnson’s manual was originally written for the City of Gaithersburg, but was also adopted by the Maryland Municipal League (mdmunicipal.org), which is a statewide non-profit association that promotes municipal administration.  What started as a local handbook describing the entire process of municipal infractions (from complaint to enforcement), became a statewide template in code enforcement.

Municipal infraction and your home

If you ever received a notice of municipal infraction, or just wondered how the process works, check put the manual.  The manual describes why you’re receiving the citation, and how it can be enforced. It also describes the appeal process, as well as what can happen if you don’t comply.

Typically, the municipal infraction process begins by a complaint that triggers an investigation.  The investigator will inspect and witness any code violations.  If there are violations, the investigator will notify you and attempt to resolve the issue(s).  Most home owners resolve the issue(s) with the first notice.  However, if you don’t comply (or attempt to comply) with the first notice, you will likely be fined.  The court can also order you to correct the issue(s), which is called an “abatement order.”  If you don’t comply with the abatement order, your municipality can go on your property (and inside the home if necessary) to fix the issue(s) and send you the bill!  If you don’t pay, a lien will be placed against your home, while collection actions are implemented.

What Caused You to Get Cited For a Municipal Infraction?

Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) also publishes valuable information about the process.  The Housing Code Enforcement Handbook, is written for the public to understand housing code enforcement in the county.  The DHCA states that seasonal issues are the most common code violations reported, such as overgrown grass and weeds, dead trees and snow-covered walkways.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/09/municipal-infraction-home

By Dan Krell. Copyright © 2018.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Air conditioning maintenance

air conditioning
Home Cooling (infographic from energy.gov)

Did you know that the first commercial application of air conditioning was in 1902?  And yet, residential central A/C didn’t come into its own until the 1960’s.  According to the US Department of Energy’s History of Air Conditioning, A/C use skyrocketed in the 1970’s.  Since then, systems have become more efficient, such that new air conditioners use fifty percent less energy than units from the 1990’s.  Additionally, new technologies are making A/C units increasingly environmentally friendly.  New developments in air conditioning include non-vapor compression technology, which will be fifty percent more efficient and doesn’t use Hydrofluorocarbons (energy.gov).

Summer is around the corner.  But I would venture to say that many of you already have your air conditioning running.  We take for granted that our home’s air conditioning runs without fail.  But proactive care of your A/C unit will keep it running efficiently while you stay cool through the hottest summer days.  Here are some air conditioning maintenance tips from the US Department of Energy (energy.gov):

Regular maintenance of your home’s air conditioning system will ensure air flow.  Regularly changing air filters can keep your system clean and keep the air flowing.  A clean filter can reduce energy consumption by five to fifteen percent.  Filter change requirements can vary from home to home, due to home conditions.

Over time, the A/C unit’s coils can become dirty, which will reduce its efficiency.  Dirt on the coils can reduce airflow and prevent it from absorbing heat.  The outside condenser coils will likely become dirty from being exposed to the elements.  It’s recommended that the area around the outdoor unit be clear of debris, leaves, and have about two feet of clearance for ideal airflow.  Make sure that the air conditioner condenser drains are not blocked.  A clogged drain can create excess humidity, which can create conditions for mold growth in basements and utility closets.

Window A/C units require maintenance too.  You should inspect the seal between the unit and the window to ensure there are no air leaks.  Window A/C units should be covered during the winter to prevent dirt and debris from penetrating the unit.

Some maintenance requires a qualified HVAC technician.  If you hire a HVAC tech to clean and service your air conditioning, make sure they have a current HVAC license.  Hiring a professional doesn’t have to be expensive, as many HVAC companies run maintenance specials this time of year.  Besides checking the refrigerant in the system, the tech will run a number of diagnostics as well as clean the system if needed.  They will also make necessary repairs, such as sealing leaks.

Air conditioning maintenance assistance programs

If you’re on a modest income and cannot afford to service or upgrade your air conditioning, you may qualify for Montgomery County’s Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program.  The program is in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland, Inc to assess applicants’ eligibility and identify their needs.  According to a Tuesday county press release, “homeowners benefitting from the program will receive free energy-efficiency upgrades to their home which may include attic insulation, upgraded furnace and air conditioning units, water heater replacement, LED light bulbs, a solar-powered attic fan, a programmable thermostat and new appliances.”

The program is open to all Montgomery County homeowners.  Eligibility requirements include; owning and occupying the Montgomery County home for which they are requesting services; they must be a PEPCO customer; and meet income criteria.  For more information see the program website (habitatmm.org/montgomery-county-energy-efficiency-program).

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Maintenance free homes

I talk about home maintenance quite a bit. And there is a reason. Maintaining your home is important, not just to keep you comfortable but to also preserve your investment. But many people loath the idea of spending their weekend checking their home’s systems, replacing air filters, mowing the yard, washing the siding, cleaning appliances, ad nauseum. They are called chores for a reason. But maybe sometime in the near future we will eliminate the chores and live in maintenance free homes.

Rapid technological advances are certainly making our lives easier. We can do many things in our homes, even when we’re not home! Our homes can even do things while we’re not home.  So how about increasing the quality of our lives by reducing the time spent maintaining our homes?

Maintenance free homes

maintenance free homes
Home Maintenance (infographic from sunlife.com)

Home design and materials tech are leading us to a home where maintenance is minimal or non-existent. Tech innovations has brought us new materials to enhance our homes’ appearance and decrease maintenance. Many of the new materials not only look good, but they are also green which makes our homes more efficient. Many material improvements have been primarily for your home’s exterior. For example, new no-maintenance or minimal maintenance materials for siding, decking and roofs are aesthetically pleasing and can last decades. However, low or no maintenance materials for your home’s interior are increasing in popularity too. Examples include quartz for counters, and prefinished wood for flooring.

The desire for maintenance free homes is not a new phenomenon and can be directly observed by housing choices. New home buyers like the idea that there will be minimal maintenance for the first year. They like feeling confident that everything in the home will work as expected without spending money on service calls, or expensive emergency repairs. Condo buyers like the idea of not having to deal with exterior home maintenance, especially lawn care. Additionally, active adult communities are designed with low maintenance in mind to make living easy and increase quality of life.

Unfortunately, because of their design, some mechanical systems still require care. For example, experts recommend that HVAC systems be serviced twice a year. The service not only checks and tunes the system to operate efficiently, it can identify potential hazards as well. However, to help keep maintenance at a minimum, many homeowners decide to sign up for a service contract. The service contract may also schedule the maintenance for you, which can also help you with time management. Not all service contracts are the same, and due diligence is recommended before you sign any agreement.

I am not dissing those homeowners who love to work on and around their homes. Don’t get me wrong, there is a satisfaction from doing chores and repairs. But there are many who don’t care for it. And not to mention that there are many homeowners who don’t maintain their homes, because of cost and/or inability. A major benefit to living in maintenance free homes is reducing the value-reducing effects of deferred maintenance.

Tech advances in home design and building materials have eliminated a great deal of the maintenance requirements that was necessary in the past. And although some systems in the home require regular care, newer systems increase in reliability. It’s fascinating that because of maintenance free exteriors many homeowners today don’t know what it’s like to paint the exterior of the house every two to three years. Likewise, maybe sometime in the near future, we won’t remember what it’s like changing air filters.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.