5 Questions to Ask a Home Inspector

Home buyers would be wise to interview a home inspector before they hire one. But what should they ask? Here are a few questions to consider.

1. What do you check?

A home inspector will look at everything from the roof to the foundation and in between, Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, told realtor.com®. But they are restricted to visual, general inspections. A specialist may be needed for further investigation on some items. Buyers will want to get a clear understanding of what the inspector will and will not be checking. For example, will they scrutinize the inside of the fireplace or the well and septic systems? Read: 4 Things Home Inspectors Don’t Often Check

2. What do you charge for an inspection?

Home inspections typically cost between $300 to $600. That will depend on the size of the house and the market area, however. Lesh cautions buyers about choosing an inspector based on a low price alone. “That’s often a sign they’re having trouble getting customers,” he says.

3. How many inspections have you done?

You can’t discount a home inspector just because they’re new on the job. That doesn’t mean lower quality. But experience is also important, especially if your home is an older one or something with unusual home features, realtor.com® notes.

4. Can I come along during the inspection?

Inspectors should want you present during the inspection. They’ll be able to explain the home’s system and how it works. The opportunity also gives you the chance to ask questions and get clarifications. A red flag would be a home inspector who asks you not to join him or her.

5. Can I view a sample report?

You may find it helpful to see an inspection report of someone else’s home inspection. While every home has problems, many aren’t a big enough deal to jeopardize a sale. A sample report may help prevent you from panicking if you see something come up on your report and also give you more of a feel for the information you’ll be receiving from your inspector.

Source: “5 Questions to Ask a Home Inspector,” REALTOR® Magazine Online (August 1, 2017)

5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement

 

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Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.

Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.

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Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

1. Create an In-Home Theater

Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)

2. Make a Children’s Play Area

Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?

Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.

3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space

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Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.

4. Create a Garden Utility Room

If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.

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Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

5. Create a New Family Room

Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.

 

Article Submitted by Fixr.com Source: “5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement,” RealtorMag (July 24, 2017)

The Home Designs Gaining, Losing Popularity

Builders are slowly switching focus from the $500,000-plus luxury market to more moderate price points, particularly when it comes to single-family move-up homes. And the shift is influencing the types of materials and upgrades becoming popular in new homes, according to Home Innovation’s 2017 Builder Practices Survey. It turns out that high-end materials aren’t limited to construction of luxury real estate.

  • Crazy for quartz. Despite being one of the priciest products on Home Innovation’s list of building materials, quartz had its best year in 2016. Quartz surfaces in the bathroom appeared in 13 percent of new homes last year, up from 9 percent in 2015. In the kitchen, quartz countertops were even more popular, appearing in 15 percent of new homes last year compared to 9 percent in 2015.
  • Nickel gains ground. Nickel faucets are also gaining popularity in kitchens, outselling stainless steel, chrome, and bronze. In the bathroom, nickel is also being used more often, though it fell just shy of chrome in popularity.
  • Hardwood, vinyl are tops for floors. High-end solid hardwood and luxury vinyl tile are popular for kitchen floors. But engineered hardwood and ceramic tile each rose by 3 percentage points in market share.
  • No more bubble baths? The jetted tub is continuing to lose favor, going from being installed in about 15 percent of new homes in 2015 to 11 percent in 2016.
  • Granite and marble are on the outs. The share of new homes with natural granite and marble showers and bathtubs dropped from 12 percent to 9 percent last year. High-end enameled cast iron and granite sinks also lost favor. Lower- to mid-range vitreous china and enameled steel sinks each increased in popularity.

Source: “The Home Designs Gaining, Losing Popularity,” REALTOR Magazine (August 7, 2017)

Fast Home Maintenance Fixes for August

Some helpful seasonal tips for keeping tabs on all corners of your home from the folks at This Old House magazine.

 

Maintain Dryer Ducts

Lint that gets trapped in ducts poses a risk for fire. Remove each end of the duct and vacuum with a wet/dry vac.

Wash Window Coverings

Outdoor irritants like pollen may have built up on curtains after a season of open windows. Have all drapes washed or dry-cleaned.

 

Prevent Powdery Mildew

Thin out crowded branches to increase air circulation. If signs are already there, pick off affected parts and throw in the trash to avoid inviting spores back into your garden.

Plant Fall Crocuses

The saffron crocus (shown) will bloom in 6 to 8 weeks; the spice can be harvested for cooking by removing the bright red stigmas at the center.

 

Eliminate Pest Magnets

Move items touching your house’s siding, like firewood, tools, and toys, which create a haven for bugs and mice.

8 Home Projects with a High ROI

Image2With warmer weather and longer days, summer is the ideal time of year to take on a project in or around your home. Many contractors and other pros often find this time of year a little slower, as many homeowners are waiting until fall to tackle big interior projects, which means that you’ll have an easier time finding the right person for the job.

These eight projects are designed to add value to your home, without breaking the bank at the same time. Tackling them now will make your home more comfortable for the coming months, while ensuring that you can get maximum ROI when the time comes to sell.

1. Fix Window Leaks

Air gap around your windows could be driving your air conditioning bill up higher than it needs to be this summer. Old or leaking windows can cause you to lose as much as 20% of the energy you use to heat and cool your home, which can also make it less comfortable as well.

There are two ways to fix window leaks: installing new replacement windows, or installing weatherstripping around your existing windows. While both will help you save money on your energy bills, replacement windows will also help you recoup about 73.9% ROI at time of resale.

Cost: Weatherstripping your windows costs around $168 on average, while replacement windows cost between $650 and $1,500.

Money Saving Tips: Get an energy audit done on your home before you start replacing windows. You may find that only a few need to be replaced, while the rest can be caulked or weatherstripped to save.

2. Basement Remodel

Remodeling your basement is a great way to increase your existing living space, without the hassle or expense of a major addition. Basements are often cooler in the hot summer months than the rest of the home, so remodeling can help you gain more usable living areas during this time of year. A basement remodel featuring things like waterproofing or french drain installations can also recoup you about 70% at time of resale.

Cost: A full basement remodel including a new bathroom can cost around $50,000. However, waterproofing costs around $5,000, while installing a new set of stairs costs around $1,000 to $2,000.

Money Saving Tips: Simply waterproofing your basement will help make the area livable, allowing you to simply paint the concrete walls and floors, and begin furnishing the room for less.

3. Bathroom Remodel

Bathrooms are among the most frequently used rooms in the home. During the humid summer months, older bathrooms can often become home to things like mold and mildew, which makes now the best time to start remodeling. A bathroom remodel, including all new fixtures, shower, and ceramic tile can recoup you around 64.8% at time of resale, while making your home healthier and more functional at the same time.

Cost: A full scale bathroom remodel costs around $18,000. However, there are many components that can be done for less, such as installing a new bathroom fan to help dry out the room for $350 – $400 or putting in a new mirror for $120 – $150.

Money Saving Tips: Cosmetic updates to an otherwise functional bathroom can save you a lot of money. Simply painting the walls or replacing the sink and faucet can give your bathroom a facelift for less.

4. Add Attic Insulation

Another way to help lower energy costs this summer is to add some insulation to your attic. Most homes are underinsulated, particularly in this area, which can contribute to higher energy costs. Insulating your attic will make your home more comfortable, while saving you money on your AC bill this summer. Best of all, attic insulation recoups a whopping 107% at time of resale.

Cost: The cost to insulate an attic is around $400 for fiberglass insulation.

Money Saving Tips: Purchase the highest R-value you can find for your climate, and you’ll save even more on your energy bills year round.

Image35. Build a New Deck

Enjoy more time spent outdoors this summer on a new wood deck. Decks increase your usable outdoor space, make entertaining easier, and have a rate of return at around 71.5%. Start this project early in the summer to make the most of your new space before fall.

Cost: The average cost to build a new deck is around $10,630.

Money Saving Tips: If you have an existing deck, consider having it repaired, rather than replacing it. Often pressure washing and staining a deck, while replacing some of the boards can help extend its life.

6. Replace Your Roof 

After a long winter filled with ice dams, your roof may be in poor condition and in need of replacement. Don’t wait until summer storms send water pouring in through your ceiling; have your roof taken care of at the start of the season to ensure that it’s in good condition for the rain to come. A new roof will help you recoup about 68.8% at time of resale as well.

Cost: The average cost of a roof replacement is around $6,000.

Money Saving Tips: If the majority of your roof is in good condition, you may want to opt for a partial replacement or roof repair to save money.

7. Replace Your Siding 

Siding is just as important as your roof when it comes to both protecting your home from the elements, and to giving it its curb appeal. The nicer weather of the summer makes this the ideal time of year to take care of this important project. Replacing your siding can recoup you as much as 76.4% at time of resale. Replacing your siding can also help you take care of other issues such as rotting fascia, and can improve the appearance of your home at the same time.

Cost: The average cost of replacing your siding is around $7,510 for vinyl siding.

Money Saving Tips: If your siding is in decent condition, consider making repairs to those areas that require it, and painting the entire exterior to give it a fresh look for less.

8. Universal Bathroom Design 

Universal design is one of the newest trends that’s recouping costs in a big way. In many cases, universal design costs less than a complete bathroom remodel, but can make your home easier to sell because it appeals to a wider group of people. Take on the project this summer when plumbers aren’t as busy to get the job done faster. This type of project also recoups about 68.4% at time of resale.

Cost: The average cost of universal bathroom design is around $9,000.

Money Saving Tips: Many things in a universal bathroom can be installed DIY for less, including lever handles on faucets and a universal height toilet.

 

Source: Fixr.com “8 Home Projects with a High ROI,” Styled, Staged & Sold Blog, REALTOR Magazine (August 7, 2017)

Mortgage Tips for Newbie Buyers

The more home buyers know about mortgages, the better prepared they’ll be. The Motley Fool recently featured a range of mortgage tips to help educate first-time buyers, including:

Know your credit score. Credit scores can be a big key to knowing how much you can afford and how much interest you’ll be paying. Check your credit report and FICO score before even starting the homebuying process.

Estimate how much can be borrowed. Lenders generally don’t like to see a monthly housing payment—one that includes taxes and insurances—that’s more than 28 percent of a pretax income. The percentage threshold often cited for total debt—which includes the mortgage payment—is then no more than 36 percent. Some lenders will offer differing percentages but these are the most commonly used.

Gather the docs. Buyers will need documents showing their income, employment situation, identity, and more when applying for a mortgage. Start collecting your latest tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, pay stubs, W-2s, Social Security card, marriage license (if applicable), and contact numbers for your employer’s HR department.

Get pre-approved. A preapproval is similar to a full mortgage approval and can be submitted with an offer on a home. It shows the seller the seriousness of the buyer, who has already secured financing to purchase the house.

Add up closing costs. Closing costs generally range from 2 to 3 percent of a mortgage principal amount. Make sure you factor in closing costs to their overall homebuying budget.

Shop around. Gather several quotes from mortgage lenders; it could be worth thousands of dollars in savings over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Mortgage applications that take place over a short period of time won’t have an adverse effect on a credit score either, The Motley Fool notes.

Source: “Mortgage Tips for Newbie Buyers,” Daily Real Estate News (July 17, 2017)

Mortgage Rates Aren’t Budging

Mortgage rates have mostly held steady the past few weeks, with the 30-year fixed-rate loan still averaging below 4 percent.

“The 10-year Treasury yield was relatively flat this week, as was the 30-year mortgage rate, which rose 1 basis point to 3.93 percent,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Despite a strong advance estimate for second-quarter GDP, markets are erring on the side of caution.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Aug. 3:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.93 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from a 3.92 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.43 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.18 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.20 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.74 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.15 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.18 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.73 percent.

Source: “Mortgage Rates Aren’t Budging,” REALTOR Magazine (August 4, 2017)