Fall Home Maintenance

fall home maintenance
Home repairs (infographic from census.gov)

If you feel that your always doing maintenance on your home, you’re not alone.  But the truth is that homes require regular maintenance.  Fall is here and time to get to work.  Fall home maintenance can help your home keep you comfortable, dry and healthy.  Because of the temperature changes and potential for severe weather, the fall is an opportune time to check your roof, gutters, furnace, and chimney. 

Most don’t realize that hurricane season goes on through the end of November, which means we could experience sever weather events beyond Thanksgiving.  Don’t wait until a storm arrives, check your roof to make sure you stay dry this season.  Although today’s commonly used roofing materials are meant to last twenty-five to fifty years, it doesn’t mean that it is maintenance free.  Even if your roof was replaced recently, it’s a good idea to have a licensed roofer inspect it for lifting, broken, or missing shingles.  The roofer should also inspect for loose or missing flashing and damaged ridge vents.  To prolong the roof’s life, any damage should be repaired immediately. 

The trees shed their leaves during the fall, and lots of leaves end up in the gutters and downspouts.  Gutters and downspouts are designed to carry water away from your home to prevent water penetration in your basement.  If the gutters and downspouts are clogged, the system becomes inefficient or doesn’t work at all.  Many home owners clean the gutters without checking the downspouts.  A clogged downspout will essentially make a clean gutter ineffective.  Additionally, gutters can become loose over time and won’t function as intended.  Clogged and/or damaged gutters and downspouts should also be repaired immediately. 

Because temperatures tend to get colder during the fall, it’s recommended to have your furnace inspected and cleaned by a licensed HVAC technician.  The purpose of the fall inspection is to ensure the furnace is operating safely and efficiently.  A well-maintained furnace can help it last beyond the average life expectancy.  Cleaning and testing the furnace components (such as the blower, ignition, and electronics) as well as replacing filters will help increase the system’s efficiency.  Furnaces are becoming increasingly complex machines that require specialized training to inspect and repair.  Even furnace air filters can be difficult to replace in newer models (some filters are only available from the manufacturer).  If your furnace uses a combustible fuel (such as natural gas, oil, propane, etc), test your home’s carbon monoxide detectors.  CO detectors have a limited life span and must be replaced if not working properly. 

If your home has a fireplace, schedule a chimney inspection before the evening temperatures get colder.  Because proper fireplace and chimney operation is a health and safety matter, don’t put it off.  Regardless if your fireplace is wood or gas burning, regular maintenance requires an inspection and cleaning.  Any repairs should be completed prior to usage.  The chimney should also be inspected, cleaned and repaired as necessary by a qualified licensed contractor.  A well-maintained fireplace and chimney will help properly vent CO out of the home, and can prevent a chimney fire. 

Many home owners put off fall home maintenance because it’s tedious.  To save time, many home owners are hiring a “Home Service Company” that manages seasonal home maintenance.  Some maintenance programs are essentially “bundled” handyman services.  However, before hiring a home service company for your fall maintenance, check that they have properly licensed service techs.

Original article is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/10/25/fall-home-maintenance/

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.

Summer home safeguards

summer home safeguards
Summer home safeguards (infographic from crime prevention pamphlet montgomerycountymd.gov/POL)

Did you know that the AAA estimates that there will be about 100 million Americans who will take a family vacation this year (aaa.com)?  If you’re one of those millions planning a trip this summer, you’re likely stressing over your plans.  Some of that stress is certainly vacation planning, but some may be about leaving your home vacant for several or more days.  Besides planning your vacation, you should also plan to “summerize” your home by taking some summer home safeguards.

Just like winterizing a vacant home before winter, summerizing is safeguarding your home while your away on vacation.  And just like winterizing a home, summerizing is implementing a preventative plan to secure your home and possibly save a few dollars. Here are a few common knowledge ideas for summer home safeguards.

To save a few dollars, many homeowners adjust the HVAC thermostat while vacationing.  Some even turn off the HVAC system.  However, if you have a basement or cellar, consider adjusting the thermostat to a reasonable temperature (and/or use a dehumidifier) to prevent mold growth in a dark and potentially humid area of the home.

If your home will be vacant for an extended period, consider unplugging “zombie” appliances.  Zombie appliances are appliances that consume electricity even when they are not in use.  Many small appliances and internet connected appliances (such as your TV and other entertainment devices) are included in this category. 

One of the biggest concerns while away is the potential of returning to a waterlogged home.  A faulty valve or supply line can leak at any time.  If you’re away, you obviously can’t immediately respond to this scenario.  Although some home owners turn off the water at the main valve, this can interfere with a sprinkler system.  Most shut off specific valves to appliances and fixtures.  Some vacationing home owners also shut off outside water hose bibs to prevent others from using water at their expense.

Securing your home can deter burglars and pests.  Although it’s tempting to brag to your friends about your vacation, refrain from posting about your plans on social media.  Store your valuables in a safe, inconspicuous place.  If you don’t have a security system, consider installing a camera and lighting system that can alert you of unexpected activity.  An exterior camera and lighting system can be a major deterrent.  However, interior cameras can also alert you of a determined intruder so you can take appropriate action. 

To deter mice and other rodents from ransacking your home while you’re away, ensure that the home’s doors and windows are shut and secure.  Also, make sure the exterior dryer vent cover is closed.  Find and seal any holes where rodents can gain access your home. 

You may also want to employ some common some summer home safeguards strategies that make it appear as if you never went on vacation.  Connect a few lights to a timer to give the impression that someone is turning on lights at night.  Ask your neighbor or a friend to park in your driveway (or reserved space).  Although stopping the paper and mail while on vacation may seem clever, some home owners have a friend or neighbor pick up the daily paper and mail. 

One of the most common aspects of some summer home safeguards is having a trusted neighbor and/or friend occasionally check on the home.  They can ensure the home is secure, pick up any packages left at the door, and deal with any necessary maintenance (such as adjusting the thermostat).  Spreading this responsibility among multiple “guardians” can make it less of a burden and increase the frequency of “check-ins.”

Many local police departments offer a home security survey. Consider going through the survey to help with your planning.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/15/summer-home-safeguards/

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.

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.

Climate change and your housing budget

climate change
Climate change and your housing budget (infographic from energystar.gov)

Saving the planet and acting environmentally ethical is good.  But there is a truth that human behavior is unpredictable.  Even in the face of the speculative disastrous effects of climate change, consumer demand for housing in effected areas is resilient.  Rapti Gupta pointed this out when raising the alarm in his RealtyToday article (The Looming Global Warming Catastrophe and its Effect on Real Estate; realtytoday.com; November 11, 2013).

If consumers won’t embrace climate change, government will. Making your home “green” seems to be going to another level these days.  Home owners have responded by voluntarily upgrading and conserving to help according to their belief. And although it’s not the first time, there is a nationwide push for local climate change legislation that is likely to impact your housing budget.

It’s been ten years, but you probably forgot about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  The bill, also referred to as the “cap and trade” bill, not only focused on commercial properties but residential properties as well.  The bill would have established National Energy Efficiency Building Codes for commercial and residential buildings.  Additionally, it intended to retrofit all existing buildings to meet new standards.  Enforcement would have been through regular government inspections.

Climate change, CCA’s and your energy bill

Since the bill (and others like it) was not enacted, local communities have picked up the ball to make their communities “greener” through Community Choice Aggregation programs.  Although CCA’s have been implemented in some states since the 1990’s, the idea is gaining steam in others.  Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich recently testified in support of CCA’s and the legislation (HB0730/SB0660) that is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly.

What is Community Choice Aggregation?  According to the EPA (epa.gov), “Community choice aggregation (CCA), also known as municipal aggregation, are programs that allow local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider. CCAs are an attractive option for communities that want more local control over their electricity sources, more green power than is offered by the default utility, and/or lower electricity prices. By aggregating demand, communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources.

However, Severin Borenstein’s blog post for the Energy Institute at Haas (haas.berkeley.edu) points out the pros and cons of CCA’s (Is “Community Choice” Electric Supply a Solution or a Problem?).  Borenstein points out the local utility still does all the work of supplying and metering customers, and bills customers for their services. 

However, the CCA is contracting to purchase electricity on your behalf (supposedly from renewable sources), promising a better price.  But Borenstein points out that policy makers learned that “electricity is not always like other markets,” pricing and fees can be complicated.  He also pointed out that because of regulatory standards, the CCA buying of energy contracts from renewable sources doesn’t mean that the grid’s “total” green energy increases or that it will decrease greenhouse gases.  He states, “green energy claims deserve close scrutiny.

Borenstein concludes by saying that “Regulated investor-owned utilities are flawed organizations that operate under a distorted set of incentives. But local governments are also flawed organizations subject to their own set of distortions, a fact that is often less appreciated by the local government leaders who are promoting the CCA.  If your community is considering a CCA, you need to think about which organizational structure is most likely to have the sophistication and the incentives to serve you best.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/03/04/climate-change-housing-budget/

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/2019/01/12/occams-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.