Protect your home from extreme cold

extreme cold
Prepare for winter (Infographic from

Seasonal 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 (

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.

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.

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 (, and the Red Cross (redcrossorg).

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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

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.

Renovate your home with FHA 203k

FHA 203k
Renovate your home with a FHA 203k

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

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

What’s your relationship with your home; how homes impact our lives

by Dan Krell
© 2012

homesHave you considered your relationship with your home?  Just like the relationships we have with our family, friends, and acquaintances, we also have relationships with inanimate objects such as our cars, computers, and our homes.  Granted, the relationships we have with our cars and homes are not the same as our human relationships, and it may sound farfetched; but if you think about it for moment, these relationships can affect our moods and lifestyles just the same.

Your relationship with your home can sometimes make you feel satisfied or frustrated, and maybe both.  But chances are that you were not always ambivalent about your home.   At one time you might have thought your home was perfect.  Or you may have decided that you were ok with the quirks in the home because you once planned to fix them.

But the reality is that over time you change: your lifestyle changes; your use of space changes.  Likewise, your home changes too: the systems become less efficient; the rooms may feel too small/large; the kitchen becomes dated, etc.

Just like your human relationships, your home requires maintenance.  Regular maintenance of your home’s systems can help assure that you will be comfortable day to day.  Ignored systems can fail when you rely on them the most, leaving you miserable and wondering about your home.  Commonly ignored systems include (but certainly not limited to) HVAC and the roof.  Having a licensed HVAC professional check the home’s furnace and air conditioning as recommended may not only ensure the system works when you need it the most, but may also help lower energy bills.  Regular inspection of the home’s roof gutters and downspouts could prevent future water penetration issues.

homeOf course, as we continually change and develop, we want our relationships to grow as well.  So, it is possible that one day you might look around your home and feel that it’s time to spice up the relationship a little – You might be thinking of some renovations, updates, and possibly expanding the home.

Unless you plan to make renovations regularly, don’t make a mistake and focus solely on making your home “trendy.”  Before you decide on a major project, experts recommend you consult with a professional interior designer and/or architect to assist in making choices that can prolong the “freshness” of the renovation.

Kitchens and bathrooms are usually where the most money is spent, and that’s because those rooms tend to get the most traffic and use.  When designing a kitchen or bathroom, it is easy to go overboard on the renovation, but even a modest refurbishment can increase your enjoyment of the home.

As you renovate the interior, don’t give the exterior the short shrift.  Upgrading the home’s windows and siding not only increases the home’s efficiency, but may also increase the home’s curb appeal when it’s time to sell.

Relationships change and sometimes end; even the most meaningful ones.  This is no different with your home.  One day you may find that although your home may have sheltered you and your family without fail for many years, you may find that your needs may have changed; you may need more or less space, or may need to live in a different city.  And just like old friends, you may one day find yourself fondly thinking about your “old” home where you once lived.

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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 in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of November 26, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.