5 Home Improvement Costs to Avoid

5 Tips for Home Improvement

Source – California Association of Realtors

Buying a Fixer-Upper for your first home. Is it right for you?

Are you a first time home buyer?

If you said yes, you may be considering purchasing a fixer upper. However, there may be some things that you don’t know. Here are the major ins and outs of buying a fixer upper.

Purchasing a fixer-upper can be a good option because the price will be lower. But you must keep in mind that fixer-upper homes come with flaws and some can be huge. Foreclosures and short sales can offer better prices if you can deal with potential maintenance needs.

Many first-time home buyers only calculate the mortgage, down-payment, homeowners’ association dues, property taxes, and other hard costs. However, being the inexperienced home buyers that they are they tend to neglect factoring in the everyday repairs and maintenance for the property. Things like a new water heater, stove, microwave, central heating/air conditioning systems, washer/dryer and dishwasher repairs and even plumbing and roof repairs. While some of these systems may be in decent condition when you move in, a year or so down the road they will need to be repaired. When they do, the added costs can put a strain on homeowners’ monthly budget.

With this in mind, buying a fixer-upper for your first home can be a great way to get into the real estate market at a good price. However, you must understand the repairs the home will need before you buy. Things to consider include how much you’ll save by buying a fixer-upper versus what you’ll need to spend to make it livable, how old the home is, who will do the repairs, and how much patience you have for this project.

Location, Location, Location! You must come to terms with the necessities of a first home. On one hand you can buy a brand new home that is done up to the nines but it is in a horrible location and then later nobody wants it. On the other hand you can buy an okay or fixer-upper home in an ideal location, and suddenly it’s worth millions. So, when shopping for a fixer-upper, be very careful to survey the neighborhood and make sure it’s in a location that is worth spending your time and money to fix.

You need to carefully study the cost and savings of buying a fixer-upper. Get a home inspection to ensure you understand the basic repairs and maintenance needs. If there are problems with the home, make sure you consult with experts to give you an idea about how much the repairs will likely cost. Very Important >> Be sure to consider the age of the home. If a home is very old, it may have some charm but it will most likely have a lot of nightmare issues that aren’t always easy to spot. This can be things like plumbing or electric wiring issues, lack of insulation, structural or foundation problems, etc. You don’t have to steer clear of an older home but you NEED to do your homework first.

Find a good, and trustworthy, handyman to help you go through the problems of an older home so they can help you understand the things that will need to be fixed.

Have patience! Remodeling and even just making minor repairs can take longer than you think. Remember you chose a fixer-upper to save money.

No go out and buy that first home!

Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon


The EPA Recommends:
If you are buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon.
For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested. Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases, may be reduced.
Take steps to prevent device interference when conducting a radon test.

The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year.

The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Reports.

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

You should test for radon.

Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

You can fix a radon problem.

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

If You are Selling a Home…

The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.

If You are Buying a Home…

The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.

If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the house tested.

If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.

1. Why do you need to test for radon?

a. Radon has been found in homes all over the U.S.

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state.

b. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that you test your home.

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

2. I’m selling a home. What should I do?

a. If your home has already been tested for radon…

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that the test was done correctly. If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test, especially if:

the Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
the last test is not recent, (e.g., within two years);
you have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
the buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.
A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

b. If your home has not yet been tested for radon…

Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations.

The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon level. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or the EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

You can determine a service provider’s qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified or registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in your state. In states that don’t regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card which indicates their qualification(s) and its expiration date. If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor if they’ve successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.

Wayne Wolven
Certified Home Inspector
direct 661-212-7951
Call today for 10% off on your client next home inspection
37311 47th St E, Palmdale, CA 93552

5 Things to Do When You First Move In

You’ve signed all of the paperwork, picked up the keys to your new home, and finally moving into your new home.  As you unpack your life and take everything in, there are are a few things you may want to take care of first.  To help keep your move-in as smooth as possible, here are Zillow’s top 5 to-do’s for when you first move in to your new home.

1. Change locks

Chances are, the keys in your hand are not the only set of keys to your home out there. It’s in your best interest to, “Play it safe and have all the locks changed as soon as you can.”

2. Re-program garage door opener

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  According to Zillow: “Most garage door remotes have a reset button that you can hold down to reprogram the opener. If you want more concise instructions, note the make and model of the opener and contact the company to walk you through the steps.”

3. Replace furnace filter

To keep efficiency at its highest and best, manufacturers will usually recommend replacing the furnace filter once a month during the heating seasons. “While there are higher-quality filters that may not require monthly replacement, it’s still a good idea to check the filter monthly and, of course, replace it when you move into a new place.”

4. Install new batteries in smoke alarm and carbon dioxide detector

Who knows the last time batteries were changed?  “You have no way of knowing when the batteries were last changed and if the home has been unoccupied, it’s probably been awhile. Test the alarm and detector and put new batteries in each. This investment of time and a few dollars is well worth it, given the stakes.”

5. Replace toilet seat covers

Because, as they point out, “We probably don’t need to go into specific details, but most people insist on swapping out toilet seats.”

New Addendum to Help Appraisers Give Value for Green Features

The environment may not be the only thing anymore to benefit from eco-friendly and energy-efficient home improvements, thanks to a new appraisal addendum which would credit these homeowners.  The LA Times reports:

“The Appraisal Institute, the country’s largest and most influential association in its field, published the long-awaited addendum late last month. It’s designed to be attached to any standard appraisal report covering a property with significant green features. Owners, sellers, buyers, refinancers and realty agents don’t have to wait for an appraiser to use it. They can download it at no cost and ask that it be made part of the appraisal submitted to the lender.”

While this addendum probably won’t influence an appraiser to value your home tens of thousands of dollars higher, it will definitely greatly improve your odds that any eco-inspired upgrades in your home will get the fairer market value they deserve.

According to the LA Times, “The three-page form is a response to growing concerns that although the Obama administration and many state governments and utilities are pushing homeowners to invest in energy-conserving components, standard appraisal forms — including those used by financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not set up to give adequate recognition to those often costly improvements.”

Until now, homeowners have been frustrated by these “low ball valuations,” which have block many from refinancing as they are unable to qualify for the loan amount because of an appraisal report that excludes the monthly utility savings they get from energy-saving improvements.   To make matters worse, appraisers are often required to make their assessments based on vague or misleading information about these improvements that local real estate companies present to them.

For example, “Appraisers complain that some realty listings claim that the house is an ‘Energy Star Home’ when in fact there’s nothing more than a few Energy Star appliances installed in the kitchen. The Energy Star Home designation is a much higher standard: It requires qualifying under a comprehensive set of criteria for the lighting, windows, water heating and high-efficiency appliances, among others.”

Besides energy efficiency, the new addendum covers a wide spectrum of improvements and ratings.  Sections that cover all of the following will be included in the new document:

  • insulation
  • windows
  • lighting
  • heating
  • air conditioning
  • solar
  • water-saving or reclamation systems
  • landscaping that lowers water or energy use
  • home’s proximity to public transportation, which might help lower fuel usage

For any homes that have been audited or rated for green features and energy efficiency, the new addendum asks for detailed information regarding the rating or auditing authority, dates of such reporting, average local utility costs and estimated monthly savings.  Generally higher utility charges in an area will translate to higher value gain from energy-saving installations.

If there are any relevant certifications, the new addendum requires that they be submitted with the report, along with details about any changes made to the property by the owners since the time of certification.

According to the LA Times, “Appraisers using the new addendum should now be better equipped to identify accurate, recent ‘comparable’ sales in the area — a key part of coming up with a valuation…In other words, if you have a highly efficient, audited house with extensive energy-saving features as demonstrated by the addendum, an appraiser should look for prices of houses that sold recently with and without energy-efficiency features for indications of your home’s true market value. Appraisers who have training in green valuations can also use one or more techniques that essentially capitalize the documented monthly savings on utility bills into a specific value adjustment appropriate for the local market.”

You’ll find the new addendum on the Appraisal Institute’s website.