For many people, home inspections are a hurdle that has to be overcome during the process of buying or selling a home. But, in fact, it can be a useful tool for buyers, sellers or anyone who plans to get the greatest possible value from their home.
Find out if the house you are selling has “issues”
When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.
In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.
Get to know a house before you buy it
A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest. Getting an inspection is a smart, simple way to do just that.
When you make a written offer on a home, insist that the offer provide that your contract is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself, but an investment of a few hundred dollars could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches. If you’re satisfied with the results of the inspection and are assured that the home you’re purchasing is in good shape, you can proceed with your transaction, confident that you are making a smart purchase.
When does a home inspection make sense?
In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:
· Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
· Are you an older homeowner who plans to stay in your home? If so, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
· Do you have a baby on the way or small children? An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
· Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.
What doesn’t your home inspection cover?
For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include such items as your home’s sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether or not your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.
Hire a professional
If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.
What to ask your home inspector
Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.
How long have you been in the business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.
Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.
What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his or her reporting style. Also, make sure the timeline works for you.
Can I be there for the inspection?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.
Owning a home provides a sense of security, but the process of building towards homeownership can be overwhelming. There are obstacles that can get in the way of even the most diligent prospective buyer. For Zaharra Karungi, there were dozens of opportunities to see her dream of buying a home for herself and her daughter waylaid. But with hard work, a thoughtful lender, a baseball game, and a determined Windermere agent, Karungi is now a proud homeowner in Antioch, California.
Windermere agent James Quintero didn’t suspect he’d walk away with a new client when he attended “Windermere Real Estate Agent Appreciation Day” at an Oakland Athletics baseball game earlier this year. But that’s exactly what happened when he ran into mortgage lender Bret Henly who told him about someone special he was working with by the name of Zaharra Karungi.
Karungi’s pathway to homeownership was a winding one. Arriving from Uganda at the age of 25 with the goal of studying to become a nurse, Karungi began her time in the United States with next to nothing. A generous friend allowed her to stay in their walk-in closet for eight months, but Karungi brought with her little more than a few changes of clothes and basic necessities. While studying for her nursing degree, Karungi babysat and worked odd jobs to afford her continuing education, finally emerging as a certified vocational nurse in 2013. Now a single mother with a precocious 10-month-old daughter named Victoria, Karungi was in search of the next step of security in pursuing her American Dream: owning a home.
Finding herself frustrated with the agent she’d been working with, and outbid on multiple homes, Karungi was connected with Windermere agent James Quintero with the assistance of Henly. After attending an open house at an Antioch, CA, condo, Quintero helped Karungi make a well-constructed offer to the sellers. Despite two other offers, her bid was chosen. At Quintero’s behest, the sellers took extra care to ensure the home was unimpeachably safe for a 10-month-old like Victoria.
On August 9 of this year, Karungi received the keys to her new two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo – the same day that she officially gained her United States citizenship. Owning a home provides a sense of security and confidence, knowing that whatever happens, you have a refuge where you lay your head at night. For Zaharra Karungi it was a long time coming.
Glass has been a key component of home design for style and function for thousands of years. The versatility of glass is such that nearly every single modern home constructed utilizes glass in some way, shape, or form. But there’s no need to settle for simply including glass window panes and calling it good. Whether it’s in the interior or exterior, accentuating your home with glass is a great way to invite light, show creativity, and convey a truly modern sense of style in your home. We picked a few of our favorite ways to utilize glass below:
Photo Credit: Trendir.com
- Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
- If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
- Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.
Creative Window Glass
Photo Credit: Freshome.com
- Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
- Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
- Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
- Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.
Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com
- A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
- Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
- Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.
Sea Glass/Beach Glass
Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com
- Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
- In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
- From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.
While you hear a lot about ghosts in October, they’re actually a year-round phenomenon (and they’re not all as friendly as Casper). Specters come in all shapes and sizes in real estate, and they can be spookiest to prospective buyers. So, if you’re in the market for a home right now, you might want to consider your threshold for the paranormal. Here are some ways to identify – and avoid – ending up with a haunted house.
Something doesn’t feel right. When it comes to finding a home, we talk a lot about how a home feels. People generally feel it in their gut when they have found “the one”. Same goes for ghosts. If you feel like something is off, but you just can’t put your finger on it, you probably want to investigate a little further. This is the perfect time to break out the Ouija board and grab a bottle of something strong for your nerves (caution: seeing ghosts may or may not be due to alcohol consumption).
Follow the history of the home. Hit the interwebs and do a little online investigation to find out if the home has any skeletons in its closets (literally). Did anyone die in the house? Was it built on an ancient burial gravesite? Both of these could be DEAD giveaways for paranormal activity. Public records can be helpful for basic information, or you can check out this handy website: www.diedinhouse.com. If you don’t mind the house’s sordid past, use it as leverage to knock some zeros off the asking price. What’s a house filled with dead people if you can get it for a steal?
Meet the neighbors. It’s always a good idea to get to know the neighborhood before moving in. Learn about the schools, check out the local shops and amenities, and take a good look at who your neighbors will be. If you walk next door and the equivalent of the Adams family is staring you in the face, it might be a good time to look at other options. And if you have no other options, it’s never too early to invest in a respectable tombstone. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Follow the paperwork. When selling a home, homeowners are required to fill out a “Self Disclosure Form” to reveal any known issues. In some states, this includes revealing if the home has any paranormal activity. In fact, if a home is known to be haunted, it can be deemed a “stigmatized home” which can impact the sale. But keep in mind, self-disclosure of paranormal activity is hard to qualify and prove, so buyers beware.
Look for more overt signs. Did you feel a tap on your shoulder, but nobody was there? Is there blood oozing through the walls or furniture moving by itself? Or maybe a spirit physically manifested itself in front of you. Well, this might be a ghost trying to get your attention. If you have an experience like this, it’s probably a good idea to find the nearest exit as quickly as possible and move onto the next home.
Let logic be your guide. So you’ve fallen in love with a home, but you suspect that it’s haunted. There could be a totally plausible explanation. Start by trying to explain the phenomena you are feeling. Could the creaks and bangs come from pests or plumbing issues? Perhaps the chills you feel are caused by a draft? Are you watching too many horror movies? Do you need to make an appointment with your shrink? What you think are signs of a haunting could all be in your head.
Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
What’s your home worth?
It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.
There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services(MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.
Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.
Every chef’s kitchen should have a style that matches the delicious food that comes out of it. But even if you’re doing little more than making mac and cheese out of a box, your kitchen still can be a place of color and creativity. Kitchen backsplashes are nothing new, but they’ve seen a recent surge in popularity. We’re fortunate to see homes every day with creative takes on this tiling trend, so we decided to showcase some popular backsplash designs to serve as inspiration.
Image Rights – Better Homes & Gardens
- When designing a kitchen, function and flair should work hand in hand. The appeal of glass tiling is that it’s easy to clean.
- Backing up the functionality is affordability. While glass tiling runs more expensive than ceramic, the cost is typically below stainless steel, and even some stones.
- Glass tiling is perfect for those with an artistic flair. Whether it’s simply a splash of color, a full mosaic, or even an intricate design, glass tile lets your inner artist shine.
- While the initial cost may be greater, glass tiling can more easily be found in pre-set sheets, making DIY installation far easier than many other types of tiles.
Image Rights – Kitchen-Design-Ideas.org
- If you need a backsplash that can hold up to consistent use, ceramic tile is a great fit.
- The most cost-effective tile to professionally install, ceramic tiling offers a glazed shine with a variety of color options.
- Creating a clear, simple, ceramic backsplash is a great way to add a colorful flair to your kitchen.
- Between the cost-effectiveness and its low-maintenance nature, ceramic is unsurprisingly the most common type of kitchen tiling.
Image Rights – Architecture Art Designs
- Stainless steel is one of the more popular backsplash options for those interested in a metallic finish, but we’re also seeing more aluminum, copper, and bronze tiles.
- The range in metal type obviously impacts the cost, but most metal tiles are much more expensive than their ceramic counterparts – at least $10 per square foot more.
- For that extra cost, however, you’ll receive a sturdy backsplash with a modern sheen that is easy to clean.
- With stainless steel in particular, consistent maintenance is necessary to avoid a dulling of the backsplash’s shine.
Image Rights – Houzz.com
- Sturdy? Check. Waterproof? Check. Classy? Check. From soapstone to marble to granite to good old-fashioned brick, there is no more low-maintenance backsplash base than stone.
- For the pleasure of acquiring a stone backsplash, you’ll typically pay more than most other materials. Between installation and material cost, the up-front payment can approach $1,000 for less than 30 square feet of wall space.
- With a wide range of stone to choose from, a number of color options are available at varying costs.
- If that upfront payment is manageable, the results will blend both aesthetics and function, and stone’s resiliency makes any follow-up costs minimal.
For an expert DIY challenge, there are many other ways to create a satisfying backsplash that fits your fancy, including vinyl wallpaper, wood, and even beadboard. What’s your dream backsplash style?
It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:
If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.
Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.
An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.
An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.
Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.
The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.
You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.
A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.
The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.
Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.
When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
Much of the Western United States is grappling with the same issue this summer – the specter of smoke and fire from some of the largest forest fires in recent memory. For individuals, even the decreased air quality can be a threat, while the destruction that the fires themselves can wreak is devastating. Homeowners living near impacted areas are often left with an impossible choice – pack up what they can and evacuate or remain in a dangerous location and hope for the best. Thankfully, homes needn’t be defenseless against the heat. To help fortify your home against damage stemming from fires, we brought together advice from a few experts.
Opt for Flame-Resistant Walls and Roofing
- It may be obvious but building a home out of non-flammable materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete is a key way to prevent a fire from taking hold initially.
- The troublesome spaces tend to be beyond the core of the home. Decks, balconies, and overhangs all commonly include wooden components that can be easy points of egress for embers.
- Replacing or coating these accent points with fireproof materials is a short-term expense that, much like insurance, prevents far greater financial strains in the future.
No Space is Too Small to Protect
- Think that little vent in the attic is too small to be an issue? Think again!
- Even vents built into kitchens and dryers should be considered as potential problem areas. Protecting these can allow continued circulation of air without incurring an excess fire risk.
- Wire screens with 1/8th” to 1/4th” between screen bars are typically enough to keep treacherous embers from sneaking into your home.
Fortify Your Windows
- The most vulnerable spots in most homes are glassy exterior windows. While their views are understandably gorgeous, they can be easy pressure points for fires to overpower.
- If you have the means to replace single-plane glass with wire glass or fireproof safety glass, that’s a worthwhile expense to ensure neither flames themselves nor radiant heat can shatter into your home.
- Beyond simply upgrading the glass, installing retractable fireproof exterior panels is the safest route to fire protection. And don’t forget your skylights!