Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A professional home inspection is a must-do

What you don’t know could hurt you – at least in the case of a real estate transaction. That’s why every homebuyer should ensure a contract is contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection.

Especially for older construction, building standards and construction materials have drastically changed. Plus, many properties on the market now have been vacant or in disrepair due to the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn.

With those uncertain variables in play, it’s critical to hire a professional home inspector.

“A home inspector in the early 1970s didn’t have to concern themselves with lead-based paint or asbestos – those materials had yet to be deemed unsafe,” says Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Virginia. “In the early 1980s, no one was concerned with radon gas or anti-tip brackets on stoves. In the early 1990s, mold was not on everyone’s high priority list, and composite building materials were just starting to be installed.”
Those are just a handful of the problems that today’s home inspectors can detect. It’s also essential to check staples like the HVAC system, wiring, roof and foundation.

In addition, home inspectors are uniquely qualified to catch hard-to-see problems like code violations.

Hidden hazards can include improperly spaced balusters on railings, defective garage-door safety features and inoperable windows that reduce the number of fire exits in a residence, says Kurt Salomon, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Once, he says, an inspector found residual chemicals in a house that had been used as a secret meth lab.

And, the rash of repossessed homes has only made their jobs harder. Since many foreclosed properties have sat vacant for months – even years – damage from water, mold, deterioration and vandalism are prime concerns.

According to a 2012 poll conducted by ASHI, nearly 90 percent of all American homeowners surveyed said home inspections boost their confidence in a home purchase. Eighty-four percent said they would be more likely to purchase a foreclosed or short-sale property if it passed a home inspection.

“The purpose of a home inspection is not to assemble a list of normal wear-and-tear or cosmetic items but to identify the home’s most pressing problems to be addressed in an effort to save the buyer money in the long run,” Salomon says.

After the inspection, the buyer and seller negotiate to see if any of the problems will be fixed or if there will be price allowances for necessary repairs. Even if the contract doesn’t change, Salomon says, “The buyer will still benefit from having the knowledge of defective or unsafe components and systems.”

Some sellers will have a home inspection completed prior to listing a home, says Susan Aviles, broker with Aviles Real Estate Brokerage in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

In other cases, a real estate agent may insist that a home inspector of the buyer’s choice conducts the inspection. Either way, Aviles says, she would never recommend that a client forgo a home inspection.

Regardless of the age of the structure or appearance, an inspection is necessary. Even brand-new homes could have issues with builders cutting corners or recent DIY home improvement projects gone awry.

When shopping for a home inspector, choose one who meets state licensing/certification regulations (visit for more details). He or she should have several years of experience and come highly referred by someone you know.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why You Should Start Your Year With These 5 Housing Projects

New Deck

Every January, eager homeowners try to determine what home remodeling projects they should consider the upcoming year. While remodeling the bathroom or adding that new kitchen island you always wanted may be the most desirable, they may not bring the highest return on your investment.
Home improvement projects never bring a return on investment over 100%. In fact, the average ROI the past few years is down to just under 60%. This means that most homeowners are only recouping 60% of the money they put into a remodeling project after the home is sold. Nonetheless, this does not mean you should be afraid of remodeling. Besides the ROI, you will of course reap the benefits while living in the home. On the other hand, if you’re looking for projects that have proven to bring a strong ROI, you may want to start your year with these five home remodeling projects.

Front Door

1. Replace the Front Door

Surprisingly enough, new front doors bring the highest ROI among any home remodeling project and when you break it down, it makes perfect sense. Safety is one of the most important factors when someone is planning to buy a new home. A new front door is not only going to give the house a better curb appeal, but it will also make any potential buyer feel safe. This combination ultimately allows a new door to bring a 73% return on investment.

According to ImproveNet, it costs between $400 and $850 to replace a front door.

2. Build A New Wood Deck

In a day where everything is online and out in the open, many of us enjoy the silence and privacy that wood decks bring to our backyards. Fortunately, not only are they DIY-friendly, but they also bring back a strong ROI.

The average cost of building a deck is $6,148, but a new deck will roughly bring a 70%ROI.
Once you decide, make sure you come up with a design, choose the right type of wood for your area, know all future costs (sealing) and determine the required maintenance time throughout its lifespan.
New Windows

3. Replace the Windows

More and more homeowners are going green and a terrific way to make your home more energy efficient is by replacing your old windows. Not only will your home be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but you will also save on HVAC costs down the road.

Window installation can get expensive, jumping all the way up to $5,000, but just know, on top of the HVAC savings, know they tend to bring a ROI of 70%.

To lower costs, many homeowners prefer single pane windows as opposed to double hung or storm windows. However, while the upfront cost may be substantially less, more expensive windows are usually much stronger and can hold its ground even in the worst of storms.

4. Replace the Garage Door

Just like the front door, homeowners associate safety with their garage doors. Since the garage door is typically the most common entry point, it’s just as, if not more, important to your home’s safety than your front door.

Both high-end and mid-level garage doors have been found to bring an estimated 71% ROI, but the high-end garage door is going to cost about twice as much to purchase and install.

According to ImproveNet’s numbers, the average price to install a garage door is $964.
Updated Kitchen

5. Update the Kitchen

Finally, while the kitchen may not bring the strongest ROI, it does attract new buyers.
The kitchen is where life happens and has been known to make or break a sale. Rather than spend upwards of $20,000 on a kitchen remodel, invest wisely in a few DIY projects you can do over the weekend, such as:
  • Replace the knobs on the cabinets
  • Paint the cabinets
  • Add a backsplash
  • Change the wall paint
  • Install lights under the cabinets
People like new and these projects give any kitchen the new look and feel they desire.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter Fire Safety Tips

With temperatures dipping close to zero degrees this week, remodeling contractor Somerville Aluminum would like to remind homeowners to be diligent about home heating and smoke alarm safety.

Home fires are the most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to, sending volunteers to the scene of fires at all hours of the day and night to help those affected. In 2013, one home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds, with home fires occurring most often in the winter season when people may use unsafe heat sources. With this in mind, Somerville Aluminum would like to provide the following safety tips:

Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button.
Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.
Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Never disable smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

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