Secrets of a solid home inspection

 

Nearly two-thirds of surveyed homeowners report that a home inspection during the selling or buying of a house saved them money.

Selling, buying or just putting a house on the market may raise many questions. Can I get a good price? Are there any problems I should fix prior to listing my house? If I buy this house, will I encounter problems that may make me regret my decision?

The sale price of a house depends on many factors, including the market, location, size of the property, age of the house, condition of the structure, what appliances might be included in the sale and even how nicely the property and building were landscaped and decorated – just to name a few.

Having a qualified professional inspect your house prior to putting it on the market – or for prospective buyers, before closing on a sale – can help guide your decision. But many homeowners and prospective buyers are unsure what's included in a standard home inspection, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A qualified home inspector will review these aspects of a property:
 

  • Roof, attic and visible insulation
  • Foundation, basement and structural components
  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Heating and central air conditioning systems
  • Windows and doors
  • Water fixtures and faucets
  • Decks

Nearly two out of three homeowners recently surveyed by ASHI reported they saved a lot of money as a result of having a home inspection during the selling/buying of a house. Sellers use inspections to help determine potential problems that can be repaired or replaced prior to listing – potentially getting them a higher sale price. And buyers use the inspections to determine if they want to invest in the property, or help negotiate for a better price that would include the repair and replacement of potential problems.

Not all home inspectors are certified and licensed. ASHI's "Find an Inspector" tool allows homeowners to locate an inspector in their area. Always check with your local inspector for a complete list of services provided.

"It's important for homeowners to do their homework before hiring an inspector," says Kurt Salomon, ASHI president. "Look for a home inspector certified through the ASHI Certified Inspector Program, which is the only home inspection association program approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies."

The following elements are not included in a standard home inspection:

  • Septic system
  • Electrical wiring and plumbing that is not readily accessible (for example, behind drywall or plaster)
  • Water conditioning or softening system
  • Swimming pool
  • Backyard fences
  • Lawn irrigation system
  • Household appliances
  • Compliance with local codes
  • Appraisal to determine market value

Before hiring a home inspector, inquire about what is covered in the inspection and ask to see a sample report. Although some inspectors provide ancillary services, it may be necessary to consult a specialist for concerns that extend beyond a standard inspection. Often your inspector will help you make this determination.

Hiring a certified home inspector and having questions answered before putting your house up for sale – or before finalizing a purchase price – can not only help save money, but also allow you to go through the process with more peace of mind.

How to write a professional real estate property description that sells

 

There are do's and don'ts when it comes to writing a professional property description that sells. An effective property description can determine whether or not you sell the property.

Headline:

To begin, your headline must jump out from the page and catch the attention of the buyer. Make the headline appealing with captivating and positive words.

Description:

Always begin your description with the selling points of the property. List the best features first to keep the attention of the buyer. Use adjectives to spice up the description. For example, instead of stating dining room, try spacious dining room for your family to gather and share a meal. Let the buyer know why they will want the selling points of the house.

It's important to sell the area to potential buyer as well. Are you selling to someone looking for a single family home or a multi-million dollar estate? Highlight points in the area that appeal to your buyer like schools, shopping, public transportation, etc.

Location:

Include the geographical area in your description. Many buyers are looking to buy in a specific area.

Price:

Including the price of the property is especially important for the sale by owners. Price inclusion is also a way to screen potential buyers.

Call to Action:

End your description with encouraging words for buyers to call you. Give them a reason for a call to action. "This beautiful property will go fast, call now for more details."

Wording:

Choose your words wisely and keep them positive. Certain words sound better and are more appealing to potential buyers. For instance try cozy instead of small.

Now that you know what should go into an effective property description, you need to know what shouldn't. Avoid the following:

* Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes

* Uncommon abbreviations

* Clichés

* Jargon

* Passive voice

* Over the top vocabulary

Write in the present tense and make sure to include words like you and your in your description. This way potential buyers will feel as though you are speaking directly to them.

by: Rose Manning
Article Source:
http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7348.shtml

Go-big upgrades that can help a lingering home sell at last

 

(BPT) – Everyone knows spring and summer are the best months in which to sell a home. If your house has lingered on the market, you may be eager to find ways to freshen its appeal for potential buyers. Perhaps you're even ready to go big and invest in upgrades that will improve the home's value, curb appeal and interior allure so much that potential buyers just won't be able to walk away from it.

If you're at that point, first figure out how much you can reasonably invest. Will the improvement increase your home value enough to allow you to recoup its cost? Maybe not, but if your priority is a faster sale, return on investment might have a different meaning for you.

Next, look at areas of your home where improvements will have the biggest impact – spots that are the least appealing or those that have the most appeal. Upgrading a less-than-great room can bring it up to snuff, but upgrading a good room could make it absolutely smashing. For example, painting a small bathroom in a bright color could make that cramped space feel bigger. Adding a skylight to your kitchen, bath, or other area in your home however, will really make a splash with abundant natural light and fresh air.

Here's a room-by-room game plan for high-impact upgrades that could make buyers fall in love with your home:

Anywhere

Buyers are, universally, looking for beauty and value. Any improvement that gives both can directly impact your ability to sell your home. Adding a skylight is a great way to enhance a home's visual appeal, livability and energy efficiency while improving indoor air quality by introducing much needed fresh air into the home.

Natural light can make a small room look bigger and brighter, and create a more healthful environment. Adding a traditional or tubular skylight to any room in the house brings more natural light into your home. Plus, Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux America, can provide fresh air through cost-efficient passive ventilation to reduce humidity and stale air, and heating, cooling and lighting costs. Add remote-controlled, solar powered blinds, and you can boost a skylight's energy efficiency by 39 percent, Velux states.

Finally, this is one high impact investment that can actually put cash back in your pocket. Installation of energy-efficient no leak solar powered fresh air skylights and blinds can qualify you for up to a 30 percent federal tax credit on the -products and installation costs. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more and calculate your tax credit for new or replacement skylights.

Kitchen and bathroom

Any Realtor will tell you great kitchens and bathrooms can sell a house. If yours are only so-so, they could be what's standing in the way of getting an offer. If you've already done the basics – cleaning and decluttering, repainting and replacing dated cabinet hardware – it may be time to pull out the big guns.

New appliances and fixtures will cost you a few thousand, but can go a long way toward wooing buyers. New appliances look great, are more energy-efficient, and provide buyers the peace of mind knowing they won't face repair or replacement costs any time soon. New fixtures such as rainfall shower heads and touch-free faucets add an element of luxury to the most common bathroom.

Adding a tile backsplash or new wood-look laminate flooring in the kitchen, and new tile floor in the bath can also create a big impact – and for less money if you do the work yourself. Replacing lower-quality or older countertops is also an eye-catching upgrade. The trick is to find the improvement that will have the biggest visual impact in your space.

Living room/family

When buyers enter your home, chances are the living room or family room will be one of the first rooms they see. Their impression of that room can set the tone for how they perceive the rest of the house. Again, assuming you've done the basics – painting, window treatments and accessories – a major upgrade in this room can have a winning impact.

If your home already has a fireplace, take a close look at it. What can you do to make it more appealing? Does it need a new facade? Larger gas logs or a better blower? Can you upgrade the mantel? If your home lacks a fireplace, adding one can be a great selling point. It's possible to add a gas fireplace for less than $5,000 in most homes. Adding a gas insert to a wood-burning fireplace is even cheaper.

Easier mortgage processes, positive attitudes inspire renters to buy

 

Thirty-two percent of American households are renters, according to the National Multi Housing Council. Generally, more people younger than 30 occupy rentals, while the percentage of people who own their home increases with age, NMHC statistics indicate. People decide to buy a home for many reasons, but the recent real estate market downturn caused many Americans to rethink their assumptions about renting and owning.

Even with many real estate experts predicting the market will continue to improve, it pays to carefully evaluate how home ownership does – or doesn't – figure into your long-term financial goals. If you've been renting and wondering if it's time to apply for a mortgage and buy your own home, consider these points:

1. Renting isn't always the cheaper option, and comparing your monthly rent payment directly to a mortgage payment won't give you a clear picture of the financial impact of either option. Online calculators, like Guaranteed Rate's rent vs. buy online calculator, can give you a better understanding of the comparison. With mortgage rates consistently low and rental markets competitive across the country, real estate experts agree that in most major metropolitan areas it will still be cheaper in the long run to buy than continue to rent.

2. While the days of zero-money-down mortgages are essentially over, it's a misconception that you need a huge amount of money to buy a house. Yes, you'll almost certainly need a down payment, but different lenders will require different percentages. Research your mortgage options before you begin house hunting so you'll know how much you'll need to save in order to secure a mortgage – and the home of your dreams.

3. Although the mortgage application process is detailed, it doesn't have to be drawn out and tedious. Many lenders now allow you to initiate the process online, and Guaranteed Rate has recently overhauled its website to allow borrowers to apply for a loan, track the approval process and receive their home loans all online. The eighth-largest retail mortgage company in the U.S. allows customers to choose and customize their loans, submit an application and receive an official approval letter all at www.guaranteedrate.com. Automating the application process compresses the traditional time frame from days – sometimes, even weeks – into minutes. As part of the process, applicants also receive the credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

4. Buying a home affords you the opportunity to really grow your roots, but the flipside is that in order to get the most out of your investment, you need to stay put for a while. If you anticipate being in your current job and living in your current town for at least five years, the long-term investment of buying a house will make more sense for you. If you anticipate a job change or a move within a few years, you may want to hold off on buying a house. The good news is, doing so gives you more time to save toward a down payment so you'll look even more appealing to lenders when you are ready to buy.

While only you can decide if homeownership is right for you and your family – and if now is the right time to buy – keep in mind a few statistics from Trulia.com: 42 percent of renters say they regret not having bought a home, and 31 percent say they want to buy a home in the next two years.

Buying a home: Prepare by getting your finances in order

 

For those considering buying a home, the current real estate market presents some unique opportunities. One of the side effects of the economic roller coaster ride of the past few years is that home prices have gone down and more homes have gone on the market. For buyers, that means more choices and better deals.  However, those same tumultuous years also can also teach buyers a lesson: Make smart buying decisions and be wise with your finances.
 
Impulsive buying is never a good idea when it comes to a purchase as significant as a home, but it was something of a trend at the height of the mid-2000s. Now, with banks lending far more cautiously, you need to be absolutely certain that your finances are in order – and healthy – to be able to get the best deal on your purchase.
 
There are a number of steps you can take to get ready to buy a home, and you might need to work on them simultaneously. Consider that you'll need to start saving, if you haven't already, but you'll also need to review your credit score and do what you can to either maintain it or work toward healthier credit. Both of these tasks will help make the home-buying process better for you.
 
Your credit is an important factor in determining the terms under which you can get a mortgage. Broadly speaking, the better your credit is, the more positively you'll be viewed by lenders – and that can lead to better interest rates. And because you'll be paying off your home for years to come, it's important to get the best rate possible.
 
Start by checking your credit report. You're entitled to one free check of your report, from TransUnion and other credit reporting agencies every year.  As much as you need to check your report to find out what shape your credit is in, it's also essential to review it for inaccuracies or fraudulent activity, both of which can have a negative impact on your score.
 
If your credit health needs some work, start taking action immediately. Paying bills on time, reducing your overall debt and limiting new credit inquiries can all help to build your credit – but be patient as it can take time for your positive actions to take effect. Nevertheless, the sooner you make the effort, the sooner you'll see results.
 
Making a prudent decision about buying a house comes down to an honest assessment of what you can afford. Keep in mind that you might be approved for a loan that's larger than what is practical for you to afford. While it may be tempting to buy a pricier house, the stress of struggling to make payments could diminish your enjoyment of your new home and even put you at financial risk. One rule of thumb is that most borrowers can afford a home loan that runs about two and a half times their annual salary. 
 
Buying a home is a complex process, but one that is ultimately very rewarding when done right. By organizing your finances well in advance, you'll help set yourself up for success.

For more information about credit and buying a home, visit www.transunion.com.

Creating the perfect porch can be simple and low-maintenance

 

(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it's easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood's natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor living space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components' richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch's warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that "welcome home" feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco's enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood's time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco's exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.

Choose a certified installer to create curb appeal with confidence

 

Once you've made the decision to re-side your home with vinyl siding, however, you need a qualified contractor to install it properly to ensure long-lasting curb appeal.

"Vinyl siding is not something anyone with a hammer can install," says Matt Russo, production manager with Hollingsworth Home Improvement. "There are techniques that need to be followed."

Look for installers certified through a program sponsored by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). A  VSI Certified Installer knows how to:

* Correctly fasten siding to allow for vinyl's normal expansion and contraction properties and keep it straight and secure on the wall.
* Properly prepare the area around doors, windows and other openings to prevent water infiltration.
* Pay attention to details that will give your home a beautiful appearance that will last.

When Margaret Seibert needed to have her 30-year-old siding replaced after a particularly heavy Minnesota storm, she looked to a firm that used only VSI Certified Installers to ensure a quality job. "They did a really good job, and I'm very satisfied with how it looks," Seibert says.

"The main thing is not nailing the siding too tightly, but letting it move," says Matt Ocel, owner of Ocel Buildings in Farmington, Minn., which completed Seibert's re-siding job. "Especially with a climate where you go from 100-degree days to 40-below, you have to leave room for vinyl siding to expand and contract."

With nearly 3,500 VSI Certified Installers across the U.S. and Canada, VSI offers a locator tool to help homeowners find professionals in their area. Log on to www.vinylsiding.org to learn more. Ask if your builder or home improvement contractor is using VSI Certified Installers; these qualified professionals carry a photo ID with their current certification number and expiration date.

VSI Certified Installers have demonstrated their installation skills and knowledge of the industry standard ASTM 4756, verified by an independent quality control agency. ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade and build consumer confidence. VSI Certified Installers must have a minimum of one year of experience installing vinyl siding and accessories, attend a hands-on course taught by a VSI Certified Trainer, pass a written test about proper installation practices, and be re-certified every three years.

Vinyl siding installation companies can also become certified. The company must have an approved quality control program, as well as a certified installer or trainer present on every job crew where vinyl siding is being installed.

For more information about VSI's program, visit www.vinylsiding.org/certifiedinstaller.

Four hot, new-home trends that can work for your remodel

 

If you're planning to renovate your home, you can tap some of the hottest trends showing up in new-home designs. Here are four new-home trends that offer strong returns on your time and money:

1. Creating a view – Americans continue to embrace all things green and that trend is showing up in new home construction in a number of ways, including an emphasis on energy-efficient windows that bring the outdoors inside with a great view.

If your home has older windows, they're likely not as energy efficient as newer options, so replacing them can improve your heating and cooling efficiency. Window replacements typically provide a high return on investment at the time or resale, too – more than 73 percent for wood windows and 71 percent-plus for vinyl, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.

While you're replacing your windows, you also have the opportunity to open up your home more to outdoor views. Work with your architect or designer and contractor to determine where the best views are, and how much additional glass you can incorporate into your renovation to capitalize on those views.

2. Adding a bathroom – When it comes to renovations that improve resale value and enhance a home's usability, adding a bathroom is at the top of the list for many homeowners. While today's new smaller homes often have less square footage, demand for multiple bathrooms has not changed.

In existing homes, adding a bathroom can sometimes pose plumbing challenges. Up-flush plumbing can solve a lot of them. Up-flush systems pump waste and water from a toilet, sink or bathtub up and out, instead of into a below-floor sewage pit.

Up-flush toilets enable homeowners to easily and cost-effectively install a bathroom virtually anywhere without breaking through the floors – a special advantage when those floors are made of concrete. That means adding a basement bathroom doesn't require cutting into a home's concrete foundation, and you can easily add an attic bathroom without tearing up the first-floor ceiling. According to Saniflo, makers of up-flush plumbing products, adding a bathroom using this type of plumbing can cost about $5,000 less than one that uses conventional plumbing.

3. Defining the kitchen – Kitchens are another popular renovation that pays off in a number of ways. Architects are fine-tuning the popular wide-open floor plan concept, and the change is showing up in the kitchen. Favored designs now open the kitchen on one side to an adjoining room, such as the family room, but enclose the other three walls to create a more defined space, as well as more storage and cabinet options.

This trend works particularly well in older homes where you frequently find a completely separate kitchen. Now, rather than ripping out three walls to create an entirely open flow, you can tap the latest kitchen design trend by opening up just a single wall in the kitchen. This leaves the space well-defined, but also adds the open, social feeling that is so appealing in many new home designs.

4. Maximizing every inch of space – With smaller floor plans gaining popularity, making the most of every inch of space is vital. New-home design employs entertaining nooks, breakfast alcoves, built-ins, pocket doors and other tricks to use every inch of space wisely.

It's a trend that also works well in older homes that may have smaller rooms and less square footage than the McMansions popular a few years ago. For example, it's easier to add a built-in desk to a spare corner and create an office alcove than it is to add an entire office to your floor plan.

If you crave a fresh environment and the latest home design trends, you don't have to give up your old home and tackle the hassles of moving into something new. With some planning and creativity, it's possible to translate some of the hottest new-home design trends into your renovation project.

Design a stunning backsplash without the whiplash

 

(BPT) – The kitchen is the heart of the home and a top-selling feature with home-buyers. Does yours convey style and functionality? Whether you've just completed a remodel or you're looking for ways to upgrade your existing kitchen, a tile backsplash will instantly transform the space into an eye-catching masterpiece.

"Tile backsplashes are timeless, providing the ideal transition between the cabinetry and the countertop," says Kirsty Froelich, design director for The Tile Shop. "It's one of the number one ways homeowners can add value to their kitchen while adhering to their personal design preferences. Best yet, the process can be simple and enjoyable."

Froelich offers her top tips for designing a stylish backsplash for your kitchen without headaches or stress:

1. Determine your style profile and take action
 Start by looking at Houzz, Pinterest and home magazines to see what styles you're drawn to. Are you more contemporary, vintage or transitional? It can help to see backsplashes in person to get a true idea of how different materials look, feel and reflect light. For up close and personal inspiration, attend your local Parade of Homes, or visit a showroom environment like The Tile Shop to view multiple styled vignettes.

2. Follow your vision
 When exploring tile or stone, think about whether you want the backsplash to be a focal point or more subdued. Subway tiles in neutral tones are timeless for those who prefer a muted backsplash. If you're looking to make a statement, clean and tumbled white marble is trending right now. Slate is comforting and earthy where metallic offers a more eye-catching and contemporary look. For added personality, consider designs with color, patchwork or patterns. "Pop art" is also really hot right now (e.g., incorporating Andy Warhol visuals into the backsplash design).

3. Consider product type and maintenance requirements
 A backsplash isn't necessarily maintenance-free, so know how much time you're willing to spend before making a final design decision. If you prefer low maintenance, the best route is ceramic tile. If you are drawn to the beauty of natural stone, keep in mind that there's minimal annual maintenance, including resealing the surface to ensure the product's integrity and beauty last.

"One of my current favorite backsplash looks is a new globally influenced Decor Mayflower pattern featured in The Tile Shop's 2015 Spring Design catalog," says Froelich. "It coordinates with the Treviso solid ceramic tiles that are available in three beautiful colors. Each piece has a handmade look and feel inspired by classic looks from long ago. This collection will definitely add a wow factor to your backsplash."

"Another collection I love is the Devonshire Cararra marble. It's crisp, clean and particularly elegant when set in herringbone pattern by itself or when paired with a picture frame design incorporating polished mosaic and marble profiles."

4. Know your budget 
 Before digging into any home improvement project, it's important to know your budget. Convey your visions and cost parameters to any experts you work with, such as a contractor or interior designer. Bring a sample of your cabinetry and countertop, or a picture of your kitchen, to the designer or showroom you're working with. It will help them maximize your budget while achieving your vision.

5. Add personal touches
 When finalizing your design, consider adding unique characteristics. Above the sink or cooktop are good places to do something more decorative. If appropriate, you might decide to add a niche with a cutout that has tile on the interior that matches the exterior tile or create a picture frame design using a completely different style of tile and stone that complements the backsplash to make a statement. Additionally, if you are doing a backsplash in a bar area, it's a great place to have fun with materials and shapes.

"Adding a backsplash does so much to dress up a room and complete the space," says Froelich. "The most common mistake I see homeowners make is letting indecisiveness cause the project to be delayed. Alas, the above tips will help create a clear path toward a backsplash design they can feel confident in and admire for years to come."

 

Three questions to answer before you buy a home

 

Preparing to buy a home requires more than just a down payment. Before you purchase property, take time to understand your available mortgage options and balance your debt load. Thorough planning and smart budgeting now can help you avoid running into high debt or repayment problems down the road.
 

Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, says that first time home buyers should answer three important questions before they start hitting any open houses this season.
 

• Do I understand the process? It never hurts to meet with a mortgage specialist to learn more about the home buying process and the different mortgage options available, such as fixed versus variable rate mortgages, flexible repayment schedules, and even mortgages that offer cash back. Before falling in love with a home, consider getting pre-approved so you know what you may be able to afford and avoid getting disappointed by falling in love with a home that is outside your price range.
 

• What is my personal debt load? If you have other obligations like a car payment or student loan, ensure you are taking on a mortgage that you can manage within your total budget. Try using an online debt management calculator to help determine how much debt you can reasonably take on based on your income, current debt payments and expenses.
 

• Can I afford my mortgage and save for the future? Sometimes home buyers take on more debt than they can manage and quickly find themselves "house poor" – with no money left for future savings or a rainy day. Before you take the leap into homeownership, crunch the numbers to ensure your budget reflects the lifestyle you want after you move into your new home, and you are clear on what sacrifices you may need to make to continue to live comfortably and save for your future.