Remodeling is a Poor Investment Strategy

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Remodeling Is a Poor Investment Strategy

by Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI
Remodeling can dramatically increase the quality of life for building occupants, but if you are considering a remodel strictly as an investment, think twice about it.
Remodeling is rarely a sound monetary investment.
According to a report published by Remodeling Magazine, most remodeling projects add only 60% to 80% of their cost to the home, and no projects, on average, yield anypositive return. Home upgrades are thus more accurately described as consumer spending than as true investments, which ordinarily have a decent chance of seeing some kind of profit.

Source: Remodeling Magazine, 2008

 Project

% of Cost
Recouped in Resale
deck addition
81.8%

minor kitchen remodel

79.5%
bathroom remodel
70.7%
master suite addition
66%
home office addition
54.6%
As the report deals only with averages, it is still possible for individual remodeling projects to
yield positive returns. A wooden
deck added to a mid-range house
on the Pacific coast, for instance,
will add more value than the construction costs nearly half of the time. Even the most wasteful of the
projects analyzed by the study, such
as the addition of a sunroom or a backup power generator, are bound to reap a profit in rare instances. Also, remodeling projects are more likely to be profitable in houses that are inexpensive for their neighborhood. But, by and large, remodeling projects should be undertaken to improve quality of life for household occupants, not strictly as monetary investments. While you will lose more than a third of what you put into a family room addition, for instance, maybe your family will enjoy the addition enough to more than counter its expense.

Remodeling is also a cheap alternative to house-swapping, which can cost 10% of your current house’s value to real estate commissions, moving costs, and selling expenses. If your home update would cost less than the costs accrued by house-swapping, or if you can’t live outside your current neighborhood, the remodeling project might be worthwhile.

Remodeling Mistakes

If you are committed to remodeling in order to add resale value to your home, avoid the following mistakes:

  • upgrading your house in any way that will make it bigger or fancier than most others in your neighborhood, as such remodels are unlikely to add much value;
  • adding pools or spas, as they repel as many buyers as they attract, in most markets. These upgrades often require maintenance that buyers don’t want to hassle with, and they pose a drowning risk to young children.
  • indulging in your personal tastes rather than aiming to please prospective buyers. Bold statements, such as brightly colored appliances, will repel many buyers.
  • trusting TV shows that are based on the premise that remodeling is a true monetary investment. These shows are successful if people watch them, not if their claims are based in reality. Buying anything at retail cost and hoping to resell it at a profit – especially in the future, when the item or project has become dated – is rarely a winning financial strategy.

Low-Cost Alternatives to RemodelingStaging can be used as a low-cost alternative to remodeing

Real estate agents often recommend the following fixes, as they are likely to return more than their cost:

  • Refurbish rather than replace. Refinishing or re-facing cabinets is usually less expensive than it costs to replace them. Re-glaze sinks and tubs to extend their lives and avoid the high price of replacing them.
  • Rethink how you use space. While adding floor space may seem like a reasonable way to deal with a space crunch, you can probably achieve the same result by ditching the clutter. An off-site storage unit can be used to free up space in your house.
  • Re-purpose a room. Never use the guest bedroom? Maybe you can turn it into an office or a dining room instead.
  • Paint. Paint can transform the look of a room or house, and it is inexpensive and relatively easy to apply. Hire a professional or do it yourself.
  • Brighten the house by removing heavy curtains, washing windows, and trimming back branches and bushes that cover windows.
  • Deep-clean. Scour your house from top to bottom.
  • Clean up landscaping. Trim bushes and hedges, rake leaves, clear downed branches, plant flowers and replace mulch.
  • Use staging techniques. Rearrange furniture and décor to highlight the positive aspects of the room and create an inviting space. While you can do this one your own, professional staging services are contracted to tweak color and furniture to create an emotional appeal. Consider that a large segment of prospective home buyers will preview homes on the Internet, and staging can dramatically enhance a first impression.
In summary, remodeling is often a bad investment strategy, and inexpensive alternatives may achieve the same end.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

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15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

by Nick Gromicko and Ben GromickoStandard plunger
 
 
The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful. 
 
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

 

2.  Combination Wrench Set

One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.

8.  Hacksaw
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo levelHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
Credit for this article goes to Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko of InterNACHI.

BBQ Safety

By | Healthy Home, Home Maintenance, Summer | No Comments

Barbeque Safety

by Nick Gromicko
With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.
  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills.  These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.
Credit of this article goes to Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI.

Is Acreage Life For You?

By | Buying/Selling Homes, Happy Home | No Comments

Acreages are so alluring, the large properties, the privacy, owning land and the endless possibilities! Though many buyers are unfamiliar with the lifestyle changes and different expenses that come with the package, such as wells, septic tanks/fields, lack of snow removal and many DIY projects. We are not experts on this, as we haven’t experience acreage life ourselves, though we can always connect you with a real estate professional that specializes in acreages!

Bobbi Morrison, a licensed realtor within the Danny Hansen Team, was asked today “What are the top 4 considerations that need to be addressed when considering the transition to acreage life?”

1) When starting to look for a country residential property it is SO important to find a realtor that specializes in rural real estate. This is not the same type of transaction as when purchasing in town.  There are so many things to consider when moving to an acreage it is important to have a professional that is specialized in this type of real estate helping you through the process. Knowing the right questions to ask, where to find the answers is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.

2) Financing for an acreage is going to look substantially different than an in-town purchase. For example: Banks tend to lend on the house and a certain number of acres. Therefore, outbuildings and excess of land would not be considered on an appraisal. The extra value, therefore, must be covered by the Buyers in addition to the the down payment in order to secure financing thus facilitating a successful sale.

3) Weigh the PROS and CONS of city life vs country life and take a good hard look at the lifestyle you want to live. For example: a significant pro could be that you will enjoy the peace and quiet in the country and your kids can grow up with an enormous amount of freedom away the hustle and bustle and concerns that come with raising children in an urban environment.

However, a con may be the additional drive time for extracurricular,  work, and for school.  If you love going to the lake or camping on the weekends, acreage life might not be for you.   A lot of your free time on the weekends may be consumed by yard maintenance!

4) Be prepared to purchase equipment for the maintenance of your new property. In some situations it’s enough to own a small lawn tractor, providing that you purchase the proper implements.  You will have loads of mowing and snow  removal moving forward so it is important that you are prepared!

What do you think? Is the #acreagelife for you?

Thanks to Bobbi Morrison for sharing some insight on acreage life! You can reach Bobbi at:
www.dannyhansen.com
dannyhansen@remax.net 
(403) 948-7510

Ant Inspections

By | Home Inspections, Home Maintenance, Pests, Spring | No Comments

Ant Inspection

by Nick Gromicko

Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, ants (especially carpenter ants) can cause considerable building damage.  Inspectors can expand their knowledge base by being able to identify some of the telltale signs of ant infestation.
Ant Behavior
Ants are social insects that live in colonies divided into three castes: queens, males and workers. Most of the ants you may observe, which are responsible for gathering food, are sterile female workers. Winged males and females will leave the nest to mate, and to find suitable locations for new colonies. After mating, the males die and the impregnated females (queens) shed their wings and lay eggs that will hatch into the legless, grub-like larvae. The queen takes care of these larvae as they develop until they finally become pupae. Within a few weeks, adult worker ants emerge from these pupae and take over the job of tending the young.

Distinguishing Ants from Termites

Winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate. These insects can be distinguished from one another by three main characteristics:

  • The ant’s body is constricted, giving it the appearance of having a thin waist, while the termite’s body is not constricted.
  • The ant’s hind wings are smaller than its front wings, while the termite’s front and hind wings are about the same size. Wings might not always be present, however, as both species eventually lose them.Ants and termites are different in three key ways
  • Winged female and worker ants have elbowed antennae, while the termite’s antennae are not elbowed.

Termites and ants both construct nests in moist wood, but ant nests are typically smoother and lack mud structures commonly found in termite nests. Also, termites actually subsist on wood, so the structural damage they leave it their wake is generally more severe than that caused by ants, which merely tunnel through wood.

Nests

Carpenter ants nest in both moist and dry wood, but they prefer moist wood. Accordingly, nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, such as wood around bathtubs and sinks, poorly sealed windows and door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Nests are especially common in moist, hollow spaces, such as the wall void behind a dishwasher and in a hollow deck column. As there will often be no external signs of damage, probing the wood with a screwdriver helps reveal the excavated “galleries.” Another technique for locating hidden nests is to tap along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver while listening for the hollow sound of tunneled wood. If a nest is nearby, carpenter ants often will respond by making a rustling sound within the nest.

Inspection

The following clues are evidence that a building is host to an ant infestation:

  • long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination. Follow the trail to locate their nest or their entry point, such as an electrical outlet, or gap along a baseboard or around a water pipe;Ants entering, or exiting, a lightswitch
  • a few straggler ants. These are scouts in search of food and nesting sites. They, too, may be followed back to the nest to betray their family;
  • holes or cracks in walls or foundations, especially where pipes enter the building, and around windows and doors. These can provide entry points for ants and other insects. Kitchens are other food storage and preparation areas are particular problem areas;
  • frass deposits. Frass is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are carved out of the wood. If you suspect that a piece of woodwork hosts a gallery, you can tap on it with a screwdriver tip and see if any dust falls away;
  • a distinctive rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small, but nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise; and
  • outside, inspect for nests in mulch and vegetation next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.
Exclusion Practices
A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future ant problems, such as:
  • Store food items that attract ants, such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers. Wash them to remove residues from outer surfaces.
  • Rinse out empty soft drink containers or remove them from the building.
  • Thoroughly clean up grease and spills.
  • Remove garbage from buildings daily and change liners frequently.
  • Correct roof and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract ants.
  • Eliminate wood-to-ground contact, such as where landscaping has pushed soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
  • Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as bridges between tree limb nests and the structure.
  • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
  • Stack firewood away from the foundation, and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a major ant nesting area.
In summary, ants are complex creatures that create structural defects in buildings. Inspection and exclusion techniques should be practiced.

Credit of this article goes to Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI.