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.

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.

Municipal infraction and your home

municipal infraction
Municipal infractions result from neglect repairs and maintenance (infographic from census.gov)

A common home buyer preference is to buy a home that is not within the confines of a HOA or condo association.  Maybe the home buyer’s impression is that HOAs and condo associations bully home owners.  But the truth is that HOA and condo association rules are created for a number of reasons, which include health and safety.  If you don’t comply with the community rules, they can compel you do so.  But even if you don’t live in an association managed community, it’s your civic duty to comply with county and/or municipal ordinances to maintain your home. Disregard for civic responsibility may result in a municipal infraction.

Believe it or not, regardless of where your home is located, your home has to satisfy health and safety standards that are enforced by your municipality (e.g., Montgomery County, City of Rockville, City of Gaithersburg, etc.).  Deferred home maintenance can surely affect the value of your home.  However, if it is found that your home doesn’t meet code standards, you can receive a notice of a municipal infractions.

Municipal infractions are also another name for code enforcement.  In his manual Municipal Infractions and Code Enforcement, Practice and Procedure for Municipalities in the State of Maryland, Frank M. Johnson stated the need for having such procedures by saying:

“Most persons will follow the law voluntarily, but the reality is that when a law isn’t enforced, it becomes less effective for everyone. Even those who voluntarily comply are less likely to take a law seriously when it’s known the law won’t be enforced. In addition, steps to enforce the law often involve the most serious violations which, if not corrected, can lead to results which have a significant community and neighborhood impact.”

Mr. Johnson’s manual was originally written for the City of Gaithersburg, but was also adopted by the Maryland Municipal League (mdmunicipal.org), which is a statewide non-profit association that promotes municipal administration.  What started as a local handbook describing the entire process of municipal infractions (from complaint to enforcement), became a statewide template in code enforcement.

Municipal infraction and your home

If you ever received a notice of municipal infraction, or just wondered how the process works, check put the manual.  The manual describes why you’re receiving the citation, and how it can be enforced. It also describes the appeal process, as well as what can happen if you don’t comply.

Typically, the municipal infraction process begins by a complaint that triggers an investigation.  The investigator will inspect and witness any code violations.  If there are violations, the investigator will notify you and attempt to resolve the issue(s).  Most home owners resolve the issue(s) with the first notice.  However, if you don’t comply (or attempt to comply) with the first notice, you will likely be fined.  The court can also order you to correct the issue(s), which is called an “abatement order.”  If you don’t comply with the abatement order, your municipality can go on your property (and inside the home if necessary) to fix the issue(s) and send you the bill!  If you don’t pay, a lien will be placed against your home, while collection actions are implemented.

What Caused You to Get Cited For a Municipal Infraction?

Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) also publishes valuable information about the process.  The Housing Code Enforcement Handbook, is written for the public to understand housing code enforcement in the county.  The DHCA states that seasonal issues are the most common code violations reported, such as overgrown grass and weeds, dead trees and snow-covered walkways.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/09/municipal-infraction-home

By Dan Krell. Copyright © 2018.

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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.

Basic home repair

basic home repair
Basic home repair tools (infographic from visual.ly)

I often preach about regular home maintenance.  However, home owners should also have basic home repair skills.  Basic repairs are those items that you can do safely, and usually don’t require a professional.  Basic home repair skills are sometimes useful as an emergency stopgap before the licensed contractor can make it to your home.

Basic home repair requires a few tools.  Keep a toolbox well stocked and know where it is so you can easily find it when necessary.  Besides the standard hammer, Philips and flathead screwdriver, your toolbox will need more items depending on your skill level.  If you’re in doubt about your ability to make a basic home repair, call a licensed contractor (you can do more damage if you don’t know what you’re doing).  As a precaution and in case of emergency, you should know where the emergency shutoffs are in your home for water, electric and gas.

One of the first repair skills that I learned as a home owner is how to “snake a drain.”  Bathroom drains, specifically, get clogged with hair and soap.  Chemical products are a common solution, however you should always follow the directions and read the “cautions and dangers.”  Chemicals don’t always work well, however.  If used improperly, chemical drain products can also damage basins and pipes.  Following the instructions, you can easily clear most clogs with a drain snake.  A small drain snake should be part of your tool box. These are cheap to purchase and readily available at the hardware store.

Have you ever needed to change your door locks quickly?  I have, once when a lock failed (the mechanism broke), and another time when someone stole our keys.  Although most locks can be changed out easily with a screwdriver, specialized locks require a locksmith.  Most locksets are designed as components that easily install. However, you should note that standards change over time, so make sure the lockset you purchase is the same size as the one being replaced.

Patching drywall is one of those repairs that is so basic that you can find “how-to” tutorials everywhere.  Basic drywall patching requires a few basic tools, such as a “spackling tool,” utility knife, sand paper and spackle.  Spackling tiny pinholes is easy. However, a larger hole may require some time for the repair as well as the clean-up.  Damage to large areas of drywall will most likely require sections to be replaced.

Can’t find the leak from your sink or tub?  There’s a good chance it’s coming from water that is seeping through old caulking.  Caulk is used as a sealant in plumbing applications.  It seals the fixtures and perimeter of sinks, tubs and shower stalls, which prevents water from trickling through.  As it ages, caulk shrinks and can become brittle, which allows water penetration and leaking.  A tube of caulk should be in your toolbox in case you need it for an emergency repair.  You don’t need a large caulking gun, as caulk is available in many forms, such as squeezable tubes and even tape.

Plastic sheathing and duct tape are both good to have in your toolbox in case of an emergency.  Duct tape, specifically, has many uses and is widely used as an adhesive and sealant.  These two items are useful as a short-term repair for broken windows and doors.  Plastic sheathing and duct tape can easily cover the affected areas until they are replaced, as well as help maintain cooling or heating in the interim.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2018.

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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. 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.

DIY Do It Yourself

DIY
Do it Yourself projects may need permits (infographic from census.gov)

Home owners are spending more on home improvements.  “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) projects are becoming popular again.  Besides being inspired by the increasing number of DIY home improvement shows on TV, there are numerous books, online sources and YouTube videos to show a DIYer how to take on almost any project in the home.  Being a DIY is ambitious and exciting, but for many becomes overwhelming and costly.

The notion of DIY is more than just being proud of getting your hands dirty.  For many home owners it’s really about money.  DIYers have a reputation for being thrifty, but a revealing research analysis asserts there’s more to it. Ryan H. Murphy (The Diseconomies of Do-It-Yourself; The Independent Review; Fall 2017; pp.245–255) provides ample evidence that many who engage in DIY have an anti-market bias.  Those who engage in DIY home improvements believe it is a zero or negative sum game, where there is no benefit from money spent on the home improvements.  He concludes that unless home improvement is your vocation, you’re better off sticking to your profession and hiring a (licensed) professional home improvement contractor.

One of the issues that is often noticed with DIY projects is that the result may be substandard.  The home owner may decide that although the project is not completed, it is “good enough” to save time and money.  Sometimes, the “good enough” attitude is evident by jerry-rigged components.  This can obviously be a problem when selling the home.  Home buyers have a keen eye and will be turned off by poor workmanship.  Even if the home buyer misses it, you can count on a home inspector to flag it.

Permits seem to be another issue for many DIYers. Some believe that obtaining a permit (when it’s required) is costly and time consuming.  However, inspectors are getting better at sniffing out unpermitted projects, so it is common for the DIYer to get caught before completing their improvements.

The permitting process may increase the time and cost for your DIY project, but it’s there to assure that buildings and home improvements adhere to the building and zoning codes within the city or county.  Building and zoning codes are devised to help ensure that buildings are safe.  Finishing a project without a required permit can potentially cost you more money and time down the road.

If you are required to get your unpermitted DIY project inspected after completion, don’t be surprised that you may have to make alterations and/ or corrections to your work.  If you built a structure that is deemed unsafe or even encroaches on a neighbor’s property, you may even have to demolish the project and start over.  You may even have to hire contractors to assist you.  If you are selling your home, the home buyer may require you to have your work inspected.  It can be even more costly if the project was completed during past code cycles, because, rather than send county inspectors, you may be required you to hire experts to inspect your work.

If you’re planning a DIY project and not sure if it needs a county or city permit, check with your municipality’s permitting office.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Department of Permitting Services’ website lists additions and alterations that require permits (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov).  However, if you live in one of Montgomery County’s county’s incorporated cities, your city may have different permitting requirements.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2018.

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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. 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.