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.

Renovate Your Home

renovate your home
Home improvements from the American Housing Survey (census.gov)

Once thought of as a supporting actor in the housing industry, home remodeling is poised to take the spotlight.  The growing fascination with home remodeling is generating new renovation trends and research. It’s time to renovate your home! If you aren’t yet thinking of remodeling your home, chances are that you will be planning a home improvement project in the next five years.

Plaut & Plaut’s conclusion to their study (Decisions to Renovate and to Move; Journal of Real Estate Research; 2010; vol. 32; p.461-484) states, “Housing renovation is an important component of housing supply, yet one often ignored both in empirical analysis and in policy discussions about housing.”  They point out that that renovating a home was becoming a “substitute for moving.”  A possible cause for the trend in 2010 was twofold.  First, many homes fell into disrepair during and after the Great Recession.  During that time, many home owners could not keep up with regular maintenance, let alone emergency repairs. And second, there was a lack of quality homes for sale immediately after the Great Recession.  As foreclosure and REO home sales subsided, many homes for sale showed signs of neglect through deferred maintenance. 

Renovate your home.

Fast forward to 2019, home sale inventory continues to be a major problem for the industry (and will likely continue into the next decade).  But home remodeling is picking up the slack to improve the nation’s home stock, as well as help increase quality home sale inventory.  However, industry experts are learning there are other reasons that home owners are remodeling instead of moving.  Trends that have been identified include seniors who are “aging in place,” and multigenerational homes. 

Although a recent Freddie Mac study identified seniors who are “aging in place” as a cause of the ongoing home sale inventory shortage, aging in place is also stimulating home remodeling!  Homeownership rates for seniors are much higher today than in past generations.  Instead of moving to retirement communities or stereotypical senior housing, older home owners are staying put and renovating their homes for comfort and style.

Multigenerational homes became popular again after the recession, when grandparents, parents and adult children pulled resources to live in one home.  The trend continues as aging parents are moving in with their children, and young adults are moving back into their parent’s homes.  Remodeling a home to accommodate several generations may require turning a basement into an apartment, adding a main level bedroom and bathroom, or possibly building an addition to the existing home.

Even home owners who decide to move are remodeling their homes.  According to NAR’s Remodeling Impact Report (nar.realtor), functionality and livability are the top reasons to renovate for a home sale.  Most home buyers want a turnkey home that is functional, comfortable and energy efficient.  Home sellers who improve their homes before selling typically sell faster and for more than those who sell their home “as-is.”

While “going green” has become a standard in home improvement, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (jchs.harvard.edu) publication “Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness” identifies healthy home remodeling as a growing trend.  Healthy home building practices are intended on maintaining the physical and emotional wellbeing of the home’s occupants by using healthier building materials, such as “low-VOC paints and formaldehyde-free woods.”

When planning to renovate your home, home improvement experts recommend: create a budget and stick to it; only hire licensed contractors; and make sure your improvements have permits.

Original article is located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/09/28/renovate-your-home

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.

Next Market Downturn

The next market downturn (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

The current US economy just hit a milestone by becoming the longest stretch of economic growth in our Nation’s modern history.  The expansion is now in the 121st month.  The previous expansion record was 120 months, and occurred between March 1991 and March 2001. Most attribute the dot-com bubble as the precipitating event that ended that period of expansion.  Many have been anticipating the end of the current expansion for several years.  And they will eventually be correct when this period of economic growth inevitably ends in a downturn, recession, or correction. To prepare, experts suggest to start saving for the next market downturn.

Earlier this year, I wrote about housing market mini-cycles are different from a full-blown recession.  Then (and now), housing indicators are mostly positive.  Although the next next market downturn is unlikely to be caused by another housing crisis, it doesn’t mean that the housing market won’t be affected by other economic factors. 

Whatever triggers the next recession will undoubtedly become an economic contagion that will spread across many industries, including housing.  The chain of events are generally characterized as: consumer sentiment drops which causes people to spend less money which causes businesses to slow which results in unemployment.  Home owners who lose their jobs may have difficulty in repaying their mortgages, and are at risk of default or losing their homes. 

Lessons for the next market downturn

Economic and financial lessons are learned with each recession.  The dot-com bubble recession in 2001 made many rethink the policy of raising interest rates when markets are signaling trouble.  Many are still studying the Great Recession, but one of the take-aways is that job creation is key in economic growth and prosperity. 

How will the next market downturn affect housing? The housing market typically responds to a recession through home price reductions.  A NAR Economist’s Outlook from October 23, 2018 (How Do Housing Market Conditions Compare in 2004 and 2018?; nar.realtor) suggests that home prices will likely fall but not as sharply as we experienced in 2008.  This is mostly due to home sale inventory and home prices.  The housing market is much different than it was prior to the last recession.  According to the latest NAR press release on existing home sales (nar.realtor), the median existing home sale price during May increased 4.8 percent.  This is the 87th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.  Additionally, home sale inventory remains at historic lows.

Start saving

A recent press release from the JPMorgan Chase Institute indicates that the conventional wisdom about mortgage default may be incorrect (jpmorganchase.com).  The institute’s study was published in report “Trading Equity for Liquidity: Bank Data on the Relationship between Liquidity and Mortgage Default.”  A major conclusion is that having three months of housing costs in reserve can save your home in the event of recession and job loss.  This is counter to the conventional wisdom of the post-recession era policies of home buyers having “skin in the game” by making larger down payments.  Having home equity is also not a guarantee of making mortgage payments.  Home equity is relative to the housing market and home prices.  The study concluded that “liquidity is a more useful predictor of mortgage default than home equity, income level, and payment burden—especially for borrowers with limited liquidity at closing.” 

Even though the Great Recession officially ended ten years ago, the memories are still fresh.  There will be eventually a recession or market correction. And the main concern for most home owners is how to prepare.  Unfortunately, we can’t predict the exact timing and severity of a recession.  However, most experts suggest saving and having several months of reserves in case of job loss.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/07/12/next-market-downturn

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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.

 

Downsizing myths debunked

Downsizing
Rethinking downsizing due to generational trends (infographic from nar.realtor).

Downsizing was once thought of as a rite of passage for empty-nesters and retirees.  It was considered the next stage of homeownership after enjoying the big house and puttering in the yard.  But everything you thought you knew about downsizing is probably stereotyped and incorrect. Housing and generational trends has everyone rethinking their downsizing plans.

Results of a recent survey that was conducted on behalf of Del Webb, a developer and builder of active adult communities, revealed that a majority of 50 to 60-years-olds are not planning to downsize (pultegroup.com).  A majority of the survey’s respondents who are planning a future move indicated that they don’t intend to move into a smaller home. 

Many older adults are actually are looking for a larger house! In fact, 71 percent who plan a future move want a single-family home, and 63 percent desire a home with three or more bedrooms.  These results may be due in part to multi-generational and cohabitation housing trends.  Many of the 50-year old’s who took part in the survey indicated they planned to buy a home that can also house their parents.

Jay Mason, vice president of market intelligence for PulteGroup, the nation’s third largest homebuilder and owner of the Del Webb brand, stated in the press release, “Rather than staying put, today’s 50- and 60-year olds are thinking ahead to their next big move.  While millennials seem to make the headlines, there are over 140 million Generation X and baby boomers in the United States, many with the means, confidence and desire to stay active in the housing market.”

Mason described a majority of GenXer and baby-boomer respondents as “looking for a different quality of life when considering their next move.”  Of those planning a move, 87 percent are leaning towards a suburban or rural area. More specifically, 60 percent described their next home as a “quiet, tranquil place where they can slow down and get some peace.”

Downsizing is a housing trend that is building momentum in younger generations as well.  Many home owners who thought of having a large home and yard are rethinking their lifestyles.  By reducing the time and costs of maintaining a large home and yard, they are able enhance their daily lives.

A major consideration is that downsizing doesn’t always reduce housing costs.  It is possible that the newer condo (or house) you’re considering to purchase may actually cost more than the sale price of your current home.  Besides the actual cost of the home, there are also associated costs of homeownership.  For example, the property tax of your new home could be more than what you’re currently paying.  Additionally, it is likely that your new home may have the additional cost of an HOA or condo fees.

Downsizing also doesn’t mean that you have to buy your next home.  A Realtor Magazine news article (More Older Home Owners Choose to Rent; magazine.realtor; January 12, 2016) cites US Census data that indicates half of the home owners aged 55-64 are either staying in their current homes, or deciding to rent instead of purchasing another one.

Are you thinking of downsizing?  Downsizing requires planning, not just about where to live but also considering the disposition of your current home.  To help you decide if downsizing is in your future, consult with your CPA and/or financial planner to help you understand the costs of downsizing.  To understand the current housing market and sale prices in your neighborhood, consult a local Realtor.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/24/downsizing-myths-debunked/

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.