Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Q. I want to start the New Year off right and really fix my place up.

I haven’t really done much in years. Many of my friends are selling their current homes and buying smaller ones so that they can travel or they’re retiring and moving to a warmer climate. I realize that if I had to sell today I probably wouldn’t get top dollar because I’ve sort of let the place go. I have some money saved up so I can get things done. Where do I start?

A.
Sounds like you’re really thinking ahead. Good for you! I would start with a complete home inspection. This is the kind of inspection buyer’s do during the course of a sale. The inspector can tell you everything that should be fixed. Prepare for a shock. Most of us don’t take care of our home well as we should. Typically you could have mold, rot, pest damage, water leaks, possible electrical issues, outdated appliances and maybe a roof that’s getting too old.

Take the inspection report and make a work order list. Go through the list, getting the work done over the next year as you have the time and money. That could include dealing with wood rot, fixing leaks, buying a water heater, any number of things. Then check out the things that need updating. Do you have double pane windows? If not get those installed. People care about energy efficiency and it will save you money on heating bills. A good paint job, inside and out is a great idea.

New flooring or floor covering is a good addition if the carpets are worn or a really out dated type or color. Since wood floors are the most popular, you could add those in the main living area. Cabinets may need replacing or painting to look fresh. Counter tops might be very out dated and need replacing. I’ve seen homes sell for double the money that seller’s put into them to “spruce” them up, so it’s worth the effort.

Next, turn your attention to the outside area. How does your landscaping look? Get rid of invasives, like scotch broom and blackberry bushes. Maybe plant a tidy garden or have the current one weeded well and add new, spring bulbs and flowers. Clean out the garbage and out buildings. If you haven’t used something in a year or two you probably don’t need it.

If you’re no good at this stuff get some help from professionals. Be SURE to get references and bids. Start with a reputable inspector who’s certified by the Association of American Home Inspectors and comes recommended.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Q. We just want to ask you to remind people to clean their chimney every year.

I’ll admit that I was stubborn when my wife kept harping on me to get it done. Well we had a chimney fire and if we hadn’t been home at the time we could have lost the house.

A.
I’m happy to remind folks about this important issue. Congratulations on being a big enough person that you were willing to admit you were wrong. Many people fail to have their chimneys cleaned regularly. Creosol builds up quickly. Using green wood makes it worse. Using it for garbage and paper also is a bad idea.

I might also make a pitch for converting to gas, propane or pellet stoves if you can possibly afford it. It’s much cleaner and causes less pollution in the air outside and much less pollution inside your home. Also, at the cost of wood these days it can even be cheaper. Last, many insurance companies no longer write new policies on houses that have wood stoves. In some cases your insurance company can deny a claim based on a fire started by a wood stove.

Another important reminder this time of year is to clean your gutters. Water flowing out of control causes rot. I see this often in homes I sell. Even newer homes can have wood destroying bugs that are attracted to wet and rotted wood. Basements flood or seep, causing mold and mildew. Roofs can rot as water wicks up into the wood under the roofing material because drains are backed up. It ends up costing thousands of dollars to fix what could have been avoided just by cleaning the gutters. Hire someone else if you aren’t able to do it yourself.