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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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.

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
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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.

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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.

Home renovation and improvement with 203k

by Dan Krell
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© 2013

homes for saleIf you’re like many homebuyers, 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 203k lender for borrower and home qualifying guidelines, loan limits and 203k acceptable improvements.  Additional information (including a list of 203k lenders) can be found on the HUD website (HUD.gov).

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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 March 18, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.