Winter ready home

Winter Ready Home
Be Winter Ready (infographic from cdc.gov)

After several years of brutal winter weather, we were given a reprieve of mild weather last year.  The warm weather trend has moved into the fall with some balmy days.  But you shouldn’t become complacent thinking that winter weather is a long way off.  Yes, it’s the time of year to take stock in your home and prepare for winter.  Is your home winter ready?

Of course, at the center of your winter ready home is the comfort your heating system delivers.  Regardless of the type of heating system you have, have a licensed a licensed professional inspect your home’s furnace.  The inspection can identify any issues that can cause your furnace to be inefficient and/or fail.  The inspection can also root out potential safety issues, such as carbon monoxide buildup.  If the system does not need to be repaired or replaced, the HVAC professional will tune the furnace to optimize the its performance.

Another thought for being winter ready is the fireplace.  Unfortunately, many homeowners overlook fireplace and chimney maintenance.  However, putting off fireplace and chimney maintenance can become a safety issue.  Wood burning fireplaces should be cleaned, inspected, and repaired if necessary.  Gas fireplaces require a licensed technician to inspect the pilot and electronics in the firebox.  Both wood and gas fireplaces require flue and chimney maintenance.  Creosote buildup can combust and cause a chimney fire.  Birds and other animals or debris can lodge in the chimney and prevent proper venting.  Defective fireplaces or improperly vented fireplaces can produce excess carbon monoxide in your home, which can be deadly.

You’re not winter ready unless you’re prepared for emergencies.  Test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, replace them if necessary.  If your heating system and/or fireplace burns liquid, solid, or gas fuel, then you need to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.  Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless and prolonged exposure can result in brain damage and death.  Experts recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home, primarily near bedrooms.

Hose bibs are often ignored because many people don’t use them, or are not aware of how to maintain them.  However, hose bibs that are not winter ready are probably the number one source of winter pipe leaks.  If not winterized properly, the pipes leading to the hose bibs can freeze and expand.  This expansion can cause the pipe to burst, creating an unwanted winter leak.  If you’ve never winterized the hose bibs, or are not sure how, contact a licensed plumber.  Attempting to operate pipe valves that have been idle or not operated in a while can create or exacerbate an undetected leak.

Make sure your home’s roof system is winter ready.  Have a licensed professional inspect your home’s roof.  If shingles are not secure, melting and freezing snow can create ice dams.  Ice dams can lift and dislodge shingles allowing water to penetrate your home.  Water penetration from ice dams can cause damage to your home’s interior.  Besides damaging ceilings, water penetration can also damage walls and windows.

While your roof is being checked out, inspect the roof flashing, gutters and downspouts.  Roof flashing is often ignored, however is as important as shingles.  Roof flashing is used to transition from shingles (or other roofing) to other materials (such as brick, metal or PVC).  The flashing prevents water to leak between the roof and chimney or vent pipes.

Clean and repair clogged gutters and blocked downspouts.  Poorly maintained gutters and downspouts won’t allow for proper drainage of water from snow and rain.  Improper drainage can allow water to penetrate the foundation, creating structural and mold issues.

Preparing for winter will reduce the probability of having surprises.  Being winter ready will allow you to enjoy the winter months in your own winter wonderland.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home owner savvy

Home owner savvy
Home maintenance schedule (from homezada.com)

The playwright Oscar Wilde must have been fond of the idiom “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” because he used it in back to back works; first in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and then a variation in Lady Windermere’s Fan.  Today, corrupted forms of Wilde’s phrase are wrongly attributed or misquoted – but the point is well made.  More psychologist then poet, Wilde seemed to characterize a core consumer behavioral trait of seeking short term gain vs long term value – which applies to home owner savvy!

Consumers in the 19th century were much like consumers today, such that they sought out to get a bargain; often times overlooking the costs from which it comes by.  And what may have been in Wilde’s time a conflation of price and value, is still common today – especially for home owners.  While many home owners pride themselves on their frugality in home maintenance, they don’t realize the consequences of their poor choices when it comes time to sell their home.  Home owner savvy is also knowing about value.

Today’s home owner’s frugality comes honestly as a result of the great recession.  A McKinsey Global Institute consumer sentiment survey from a year and half ago sums it up in the title: America the frugal: US Consumer Sentiment Survey (Martinez, Motiwala, and Sher; mckinsey.com; December 2014).  Martinez, Motiwala, and Sher wrote in their economic analysis that “…Multiple years of austerity have left consumers with altered views about spending. Almost 40 percent say they will probably never go back to their prerecession approach to buying…

While looking to spend less on maintenance and home repairs, home owners often ignore the effects of their thriftiness on the long term maintenance costs of their home.  Trying to spend less often means becoming reactive to maintenance issues, instead of proactive.  Reactive maintenance typically means that the plumbing, electrical, or roof issue the owner is repairing, may have been an ongoing problem that may have also affected other systems of the home.  However, proactive home maintenance is an ongoing process that can prevent minor problems from becoming costly major issues and is home owner savvy.

John Riha invoked Ben Franklin’s “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” when writing about home maintenance and house values (How Much Value Does Regular Maintenance Add to Your Home?; houselogic.com).  He repeats a common theme that regular preventative maintenance doesn’t only save you money down the line, but can add to a home’s sale price.  Riha quotes University of Connecticut and Syracuse University studies that implies the value of a regularly maintained home may increase by 1% a year!

Riha recommends a “proactive maintenance strategy” to help stay on top of necessary repairs and system replacements.  He suggests saving 1% to 3% of a home’s cost for regular maintenance.  To help keep it “interesting,” he suggests repairing and updating one room per year.  If you are unsure where to begin, a home inspection may help identify areas of immediate concern; as well as develop a regular maintenance schedule.  Also, keeping records of ongoing repairs and upgrades will cement in a home buyer’s mind the amount of care you had for your home.

Home owner savvy is not necessarily about being frugal with home maintenance, which is also not about knowing the price of everything; but in reality, diminish the value of their home.  Regular home maintenance can not only keep you comfortable and safe through the year, it may help you sell your home faster and for more!

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The magic of 4 to sell a home

Preparing Home for SaleFor a successful home sale, you need to focus on four areas…

Spring is rapidly approaching – are you one of the many home owners listing your home for sale this year?  Sure, last year may have seemed like a breakthrough, but the still recovering housing market is just as quirky as The Doctor’s TARDIS.  And unless you consider condition, preparation, pricing, and marketing; your home sale could fall flat.

A home’s condition can affect a home’s sale price (sometimes significantly), and is often overlooked by home sellers and listing agents.  It is not uncommon for owners to put off home maintenance, especially after the financial crisis of 2008; housing experts estimate that home improvement spending decreased about 28% between 2007 and 2011. Deferred maintenance can deter some home buyers, while motivating others to make a low offer.  You can get an idea of potential cosmetic, mechanical, and structural issues by having a pre-listing home inspection.

Whether or not you choose to address deferred maintenance and repairs prior to listing, preparation is required to get ready for home buyer viewings.  One of the most important things to do to prepare your home is to declutter.  Decluttering is often overwhelming because sellers expect to make the home immaculate; but really, the purpose to decluttering is to give rooms a neat and spacious feel.  Decluttering will make you decide which items to keep, what to throw out, give away, or put in storage.

Home staging is a way to create a “vision” for home buyers.  Home staging can get pricey if you hire a staging professional and rent furniture.  But it doesn’t have to be expensive; “do it yourself stagers” can often transform a home with little or no money.  If your home is vacant, inexpensive rentals can be used as room “place holders,” to help convey a room’s size and use to buyers.

Pricing your home correctly can mean the difference between a successful sale and languishing on the market.  A common mistake that occurs in a recovering market is the eagerness to price high; but buyer push back can be an abrupt awakening to the realities of the housing market – making you wonder why your home is not selling.  Be careful of the listing agent who intentionally over-prices your home, this is an old technique to persuade you to sign a listing agreement; the flip side is listing with an agent who intentionally prices the home too low, promising a “quick” sale (which only makes the sale easy for the agent).

Marketing a home sale has changed significantly in the last five years.  Gone are the days of “set it and forget it.”  Creative agents are constantly seeking avenues to publicize and promote listings.  A sales strategy can determine the correct positioning for the home; while implantation of a marketing plan can include new and imaginative methods, such as placement in specialty magazines and websites, video, and even open house “parties.”

Many don’t realize that the internet is where a majority of home buyers now congregate, viewing your MLS listing across hundreds of websites.  To bolster online appeal, make certain your agent uses professional pictures, inspired home descriptions, and complete MLS information.  Be wary of new marketing technology, which often has mixed results; for example: “virtual staging” is a technology than can enhance online appeal by electronically staging a home, but can flop when buyers expect to see what is pictured.

by Dan Krell ©
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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. This article was originally published the week of February 10, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Protect your home from extreme cold

Home MaintenanceSeasonal weather can test the integrity of any home; yet winter can present some of the harshest weather of the year. Even with regular maintenance, extreme cold can take a toll on your home’s pipes.  Take measures to prepare your home for the the winter.

Burst pipes can not only flood your home’s basement, but it can be a major repair expense.  Nationwide Insurance states that among the 30,000 claims they received in the last three years for burst pipes, the average claim was $10,000 (nationwide.com).

A common misconception about cold weather’s effects on pipes is that a rupture is caused from frozen water inside the pipe.  However, it’s not ice, per se, that makes a pipe burst; but rather the pressure that builds inside the pipe that makes it rupture. Increasing pressure can build up in a pipe between an ice blockage and a closed faucet; when the pressure is excessive, the pipe can burst.

Experts describe ice buildup in pipes as being more common than people know.  Besides temperature, wind chill is sometimes the culprit of freezing pipes; cracks in walls or foundations can allow chilled air to come into contact water pipes.  Although pipes can freeze any time the temperature dips below freezing – extra precautions should be taken when the weather becomes extreme.

Common measures that many take to protect their home’s pipes during cold winter months include, “the dripping faucet,” and “winterizing.” A dripping faucet, which is connected to vulnerable plumbing, helps mitigate air pressure that can build up in a pipe.  Additionally, many experts recommend sealing areas where air leaks into the home; especially where pipes are located.  Some experts also suggest insulating pipes.  The materials in the pipe insulation sleeves and jackets is thought to insulate pipes from cold air much like the insulation in your home’s walls and attic insulates the interior from cold air.  There is no guarantee that your home’s pipes won’t burst; however, taking precautions may lessen the potential for damage.

Infographic
Click for Infographic

Frozen Pipe Prevention Infographic provided by Nationwide Insurance

Winterizing” is a term that describes the draining of water and pressure from the plumbing system. Experts recommend winterizing your home if you plan an extended winter trip, leaving your home vacant.  Winterizing a vacant home that you are selling is especially important; ruptured pipes are not a surprise you want the day before your scheduled settlement.

Pipes can still freeze or rupture even when you take precautions. If you have a frozen pipe – call your plumber.  Opening faucets can reduce air pressure in the system to help prevent a rupture.  And although it is tempting to thaw frozen pipes on your own, it is recommended to have your plumber guide you; attempting to thaw frozen pipes without professional assistance can have hazardous results.  Additionally, finding a frozen pipe can be tricky because they are often hidden inside walls and between floors.  If a pipe does burst, close the main water valve immediately and call your plumber.

Click for Infographic
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Taking cold weather precautions is not just for your home; experts recommend ensuring your car is winter ready, as well as having an emergency kit available in case of a power outage.  Additional extreme weather precautions can be obtained from your insurance agent, FEMA (ready.gov), and the Red Cross (redcrossorg).

by Dan Krell ©
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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. This article was originally published the week of January 6, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Don’t delay home maintenance

by Dan Krell © 2013
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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.