Crawl Space Care: Insulation, Ventilation, Encapsulation, Oh My!

Crawl spaces are often out of sight and, consequently, out of mind, making them easy to neglect. But don’t “space out” on your crawl space! Without proper care, your crawl space is susceptible to moisture, heat loss, pests, and a host of other complications. These common problems can damage your home’s foundation, cause sky-high energy bills, and introduce toxins to the air you breathe. With as much as 40 percent of the air in your home originating from your crawl space, learning to care for this area plays a big role in your health and the long-term health of your home.

What is a Crawl Space?

A crawl space is a small space, ranging from one to three feet in height, which resides between the bottom floor of your home and the ground. A crawl space provides extra room for electrical wiring, plumbing components, and HVAC equipment. As the height of the crawl space is limited, getting into the area must be done by crawling, either on the stomach or the hands and knees (hence the name). For those searching for homes, or who own homes in close proximity to water or swampy areas, like Florida, exploring crawl spaces can be a necessary part of a home inspection.

What’s the Difference between Crawl Space vs. Basement?

Crawl spaces are typically used in damp climates, where the ground is regularly too wet for basement construction. Supporting the home off of the ground keeps it away from moisture that could cause damage. In coastal areas where the soil is sandy, a crawl space can alleviate potential basement problems, like excessive water buildup that could put pressure on basement walls. Crawl spaces are also sometimes preferred in construction when a basement is too costly. Installing a crawl space is cheaper than installing a basement.

A basement is a popular type of foundation that can add space and functionality to a home. Basements are often used as storage space, living areas, or both. A basement combines elements of a slab and crawl space. The floor in a basement is very similar to a slab, and the support system used under the basement floor is the same as what is used in a crawl space. Although basements can be a great addition to a home, they cannot be built in areas with high moisture levels or unsettled soil. They also happen to be the most expensive type of foundation to build.

Crawl Space Solutions for Common Problems

Problem: Moisture

Homes with poor ventilation are more susceptible to crawl space issues than others. Without regular evaluation, you may not know there is a problem until it’s too late. Signs of excessive moisture throughout the home are often readily noticeable, but signs of moisture in your crawl space may be harder to detect. Unfortunately, moisture in a crawl space can be just as problematic, causing complications such as mildew, dust mites, mold, and wood rot. When there is nowhere left for moisture to go within a crawl space, it can then travel into your insulation, flooring, and walls to create even larger problems. Crawl spaces with exposed dirt most commonly have trouble with an excess of moisture.

Solution: Vapor Barrier

A vapor barrier is one of the best ways to protect your home against the encroachment of moisture. Essentially a large plastic sheet placed over the base of a crawl space, vapor barriers are intended to fully cover any exposed dirt. While this doesn’t completely eliminate moisture, it does slow the process significantly. At 50 to 70 cents per square foot, sheet plastic is a cost-effective barrier for moisture in your crawl space. A vapor barrier can be a DIY project if you’re willing to get down and dirty, but the labor that goes into covering the entire ground area can be challenging to accomplish on your own. You’ll need a friend to help you pass the rolls of sheet plastic back and forth through the crawl space, or if this sounds too labor-intensive, a professional contractor may be the way to go.

Solution: Encapsulation

If a vapor barrier alone isn’t enough to tame moisture and ventilation problems, encapsulation can be a great alternative. The first step in this process involves a vapor barrier coupled with sealing tape and coverage of walls and ceiling areas. A complete encapsulation includes drain tile, a sump pit and pump, concrete, insulation, and a dehumidifier to properly condition the air.

While placing a vapor barrier can be done independently, encapsulation is best handled by a professional. The installation process takes expertise, and installing a dehumidifier is best left to a trained technician. Hiring a contractor for this work costs about $5,500 on average.

Problem: Energy Loss

A crawl space isn’t a livable part of the home, but insulation is still important to keep the heat in. Crawl spaces can be a major source of energy loss. If you find yourself running your furnace all winter long, driving up high energy bills, yet still feel cold on the ground floor of your home, your crawl space could be the issue. If your crawl space isn’t properly insulated from the cold, you could be wasting energy and driving up your utility bills.

Solution: Insulation

Insulating your crawl space depends on the general climate in the area. In warm or dry areas, insulation can be limited to just the area between the floor joists. However, in subfreezing temperatures, insulating the walls and sealing off the crawl space is most effective. A professional can evaluate the state of your crawl space, make a recommendation, and handle the insulation process.

Problem: Pests

Rodents and insects can be a problem anywhere in your home, and a crawl space is no exception. Crawl spaces can easily become a dwelling for pests if they are not properly maintained. Since most homeowners do not spend much time in their crawl space, it may be harder to determine if there is a pest problem. Pests such as mice, rats, termites, carpenter ants, spiders and more have the ability to damage insulation, crawl through vapor barriers, dig into wood, and even tunnel into your main living spaces.

Solution: Pest Control

Proper crawl space maintenance, including encapsulation, can keep your property safe from pests. When all entrances and exits are sealed, the possibility of rodents and insects gaining entry to your home is almost impossible. If you do see signs of pests, partnering with an exterminator can treat problems at the source.

Crawl Space Inspection Checklist

A crawl space inspection is typically included in a standard home inspection when buying or selling a house. This is an area where issues tend to arise and can throw a wrench in the home sale. Both home sellers and buyers should be aware of the state of the crawl space in order to mitigate any potential problems prior to the sale. Here are the red flags that professionals look for during a crawl space inspection:

  • Electrical wiring issues
  • Plumbing issues
  • Moisture (standing water, damp insulation or warped building materials)
  • Pests (bugs, termites, rats, mice)
  • Mold and mildew
  • Ventilation issues
  • Cracks in the foundation

As a seller, you may want to have your crawl space inspected prior to listing it on the market. That way you are aware of any issues and can have them fixed before the sale, or adjust the sale price accordingly.

As a homeowner, maintaining your crawl space is critical to the health and longevity of your home. That means doing an annual inspection and attending to problems as they arise, as well as taking preventative measures to keep your house healthy. If crawling under your home doesn’t seem like fun, you can always partner with the pros and hire someone to ensure your crawl space is in good hands. With these tips and fixes, you can be sure this “foundational” part of your home is properly maintained for years to come.

Author bio: Jennifer Karami is an author at Redfin, an online real-estate service whose mission is to redefine real estate in the customer’s favor

Posted by South Florida Home Inspections  |  Comments Off on Crawl Space Care: Insulation, Ventilation, Encapsulation, Oh My!  |  in Home Preparedness

How to Sell Your House in 2019

So, you have found yourself at that point of selling your house and moving on. Maybe you’re downsizing to a smaller house because the kids have finally left the nest, or you got a job in a new city and need to relocate, or finally, you retired and want to head south to warmer climates. Whatever your reason, you’re ready to sell your home. Luckily for you, we put together a comprehensive guide for first-time and seasoned home sellers. Continue reading to find out how to sell your house this year.

1) Hire a Home Inspector

You’re probably thinking wait, isn’t that what the buyer is going to do? You’re not wrong. When a buyer has made an offer and you’ve accepted it, the buyer will most likely hire a home inspector of their own. So, why would you hire a home inspector? First, if a home inspector turns up something that’s in need of repair, wouldn’t you prefer to resolve it long before entering into negotiations with a potential buyer?

In fact, if you end up needing to make repairs expected to take weeks to fix, you may lose that buyer altogether. Hiring a home inspector is a proactive approach to getting your home ready to sell. Known as a pre-listing home inspection, you can find out the exact condition of your property, what repairs need to be addressed beforehand, fix them, then focus on the next task to get your home sold fast.

Also, knowing the condition of your property will further assist you during the negotiation phase with potential buyers.  As you may already be aware, since you’ve already bought a home yourself, buyers often use their home inspection as a way of getting concessions from sellers, such as asking you to drop your list price. If you’ve already addressed any repairs that turned up in an inspection report, it is less likely that any new repairs will come up and impact your position during negotiations.

2) Make Repairs and Small Upgrades to Your Home

After your inspector makes a comprehensive list of repairs you should make, it’s time to get started either making the repairs yourself or contracting the right person to do them. This is may also be a great time to make small upgrades to your home that will help your house to sell fast. You don’t need to renovate your kitchen or anything, but that red accent wall that was extremely popular a decade ago might need a fresh coat of paint more neutral in color.

Understand Your Homes Selling Points
First, try understanding your home’s selling points and then try to highlight those features to make them really stand out. Not sure what those features are in your home? Just think about what sold you on your home when you first toured it. Was it the kitchen, the open floor plan, or that personal studio space? These are the features you want to concentrate on because they are most likely to sell your home again.

Brighten Your Home
You also want to think about ways to brighten your home and improve your curb appeal. Simple ways to brighten your home is painting your ceilings white and choosing a wall color that is brighter and more neutral. Though you may have enjoyed that accent wall, not everyone has the same taste as yourself. You want to make your house appeal to the largest audience possible to not only sell your home fast but to also invite more offers.

Improve Your Curb Appeal
Furthermore, improving your curb appeal is crucial for future homebuyers. You only make a first impression once, and the curb appeal of your home is the first impression of your home for potential buyers. Though you may not necessarily have to paint the exterior of your house to impress homebuyers, simple things like trimming your hedges, freshly mowed lawn and making sure any exterior lights aren’t burnt out can go a long way. Even freshly laid beauty bark and newly planted flowers can really make your yard pop!

Though this can be a lot of work, you will be happy that you did it because homes often sell faster and for more money when these small upgrades are done. If you don’t want to do all that work yourself, don’t know how to, or just don’t have the time, there are concierge type services that can do it all for you. This way you can focus on moving to your next home.

3) Declutter and Prep Your House to Sell

There’s an expression in real estate, “clutter can cost a sale.” Decluttering and prepping your home is something you want to really focus on. Especially if you’ve lived in your house for five years or more, there is a good chance you’ve collected a lot of stuff. Don’t worry it happens!

Renting storage units are becoming an increasingly popular method to decluttering one’s home before selling it. The idea is to limit the amount of stuff in your house so that potential buyers can envision themselves (and their stuff) in that space. Even removing photos is a great way to allow people touring your home to think about what they would hang on those walls or what they’d place on that fire mantel. Basically, you’re trying to present your house as a canvass from which potential buyers can create the next chapter of their lives.

Furthermore, by eliminating the majority of your stuff in your house earlier you can start deep cleaning your home more easily. And yes, you want to deep clean your home. If you sold your car to someone (not a dealership) you would probably wash it and vacuum the inside of it before you let someone test drive it, right? Well, the same goes for selling your house. You want to present your home in its best possible light so that it sells fast and you get competing offers.

Also, don’t just focus on deep cleaning just the inside of your home. You can use a pro wash to clean the outside of your home as well. These products typically attached to your garden hose and then you just spray your house down. It’s kind of like washing your car, just without the scrubbing.

4) Find a Real Estate Agent

Finding a real estate agent is easy, finding a great real estate agent can be more of a challenge. Getting referrals and reading online reviews is a great way to start narrowing down your options, and hopefully, you’ll end up with a couple of good potential candidates to interview.

You’ll want to understand what you’re looking for when hiring a real estate agent to represent your best interests. Here are some questions to consider asking any potential candidate:

  • How many clients have you served this year?
  • Has a client ever filed a complaint against you?
  • What is your fee? (3% commission is beginning to be replaced by 1% – 1.5% in many areas)
  • What services do you offer beyond negotiations and escrow?

These are just a few questions to consider asking while interviewing real estate agents. A more comprehensive list of interview questions can be found here.

After you decide on a real estate agent, you and your agent should come up with a plan of action. This plan should include a timeline, from the pricing of your home and getting it listed on MLS to open houses. It should also include when a price reduction strategy needs to take effect to get your home sold. You and your agent should be on the same page at all times and a plan of action will help ensure that.

5) Price Your Home to Sell

Now is the time to find out what price you should list your home! You can start by using online tools to help you get an idea of what your home is currently worth. This is a great starting point to get an idea of your home’s worth, but you should never set your sights on a single number and expect it to happen. Market conditions change all the time and so too does buyer behavior. Being open-minded about pricing your home as well as adjusting price is key to get your home sold.

Another option that many homeowners do to get a list price for their home is to hire a home appraiser. Home appraisers are licensed professionals that will assess the value of your house based on the state of your property and overall housing market conditions. They will look at the size of your property, the interior and exterior conditions of your house, any upgrades, additions or home improvements you’ve done, and then calculate your home’s worth based on the local market conditions.

Looking at comparables of recently sold homes in your area will also help you settle on a price with your real estate agent. These homes should be similar in size, location, and sold within the last few months. Anything outside of those parameters would not be considered true comparables and could give you false information for pricing your home.

Furthermore, you want to be strategic about your pricing. You want your house to sell fast while being competitive for current market conditions. Instead of lumping the price of your house in with others in the area, strategize your pricing based on your home’s selling features. In other words, if there are three houses for sale in the same area as your own and priced at $350,000, you might be able to justify $360,000 or more because you have a larger lot size or maybe you’re located in a popular neighborhood.

6) Get Professional Photos Taken of Your Home

Nothing sells a home faster than professional photos. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. They are searching online, looking at every home that comes up for sale within their filtered interests the moment it’s listed. If your house is being represented online by poorly shot photography, your listing will see very little traffic. Not to mention, it has been widely observed that listing your house with professionally shot photos, on average, sell for more money than other listings.

Furthermore, 3D walking tours along with aerial photography that show a bird’s eye view of one’s home and its surrounding area have become increasingly popular with buyers looking online. Many agencies include some or all of these services as a component of their overall services to you as a seller. However, you should ask while interviewing your real estate agent what services are provided, so you don’t find yourself paying out of pocket later. Just remember, the better you represent your house online, the faster it will sell.

7) List Your Home to Sell

Your real estate agent will get your home listed online on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), in order to l start showing up on real estate search platforms to potential buyers.

You may be wondering when is the best time to list your home? If you’re thinking about waiting for a specific season, then you might be waiting for nothing. In 2016, Redfin analyzed more than 7 million home sales to identify specific seasonal trends in homes being sold. What was determined was that though spring was slightly better for homes that sold within 30 days and for above asking price, winter was surprisingly a close second. What plays a bigger role in a house being sold quickly and/or above asking price has more to do with current market conditions than the season a house is sold.

Also, don’t limit the marketing of your house to your real estate agent and online search. Market your house yourself! Spread the word through your family and friends, share your listing on social media, send out emails asking people to share your listing with others, and even advertising with online ads are ways of getting your house in front of more people and increase the chance of selling your home faster.

8) Have Open Houses and Personal Showings

Your first open house is what you’ve been working towards and now it’s about to happen. It’s time to step up your game and stage your home to sell. Here is a list of things to consider that will really help you make your house shine:

  • Clear the clutter: You may have already transferred most of your belongings to a storage unit by now. Focus on just cleaning up the clutter that gets left out on countertops and tables. Put away newspapers, mail or magazines, or if you have children help them pick up their toys.
  • Deep clean your house: Nothing turns off a buyer more than an unclean bathroom. That could also be said about the rest of your house. Now more than ever is that time to wash your windows, window sills, and scrub your grimy glass shower doors.
  • Add white accents: White accents such as flowers or towels in the bathroom create a sense of welcome cleanliness.
  • Arrange furniture: You don’t have to necessarily rent furniture to stage your home. You can most likely use what you have. The key is to limit the number of furniture pieces in any one room and then arrange them in a way that’s inviting to people as they enter the room.
  • Bring in light: Think about removing your curtains or keeping them drawn back to allow as much light into your house as possible. If you have rather large elaborate curtains, consider storing them away until you get to your next home.
  • Showcase your floors: Floors are key feature homebuyers are looking at, especially if you have wood floors. Show them off by removing any rugs or unneeded furniture so that more of your flooring can be seen. If you have wood floors, think about getting them polished to really make them pop!
  • Create a welcoming ambiance: You may have heard about that old trick of lighting a candle that smells like freshly baked cookies? Well, it’s not wrong, but a single candle might not do the trick. Focus on reducing odors in your home. If you have a mudroom, or a cat or dog, use a neutralizing spray for a few days before an open house to limit any odors that you may not actually realize are there.
  • Organize all closets and drawers: Homebuyers touring your home will most likely look in your closets to determine space and, frankly, to see if their stuff will fit in there. Also, they will likely open kitchen drawers and cabinets as well, so make sure everything is nice and tidy.
  • Dust: Concentrate on all the areas that you’ve most likely have turned a blind eye to for some time, like ceiling fans, baseboards, on top of doorways, appliances, etc.
  • Make your entrance inviting: If the exterior of your house has outdated light fixtures or worn out address numbers, consider replacing them along with your welcome mat. A new mat is always inviting to people touring your home.
  • Secure your valuables: If you didn’t already store your valuables away in the storage unit you rented, you’ll want to make sure that these are not kept in plain sight. In fact, if you have a safe of some kind, that would be a perfect place to store your valuables while open houses and home tours are taking place.

Unlike open houses that are planned in advance, personal showings can happen at any point during the home selling process. The key is to be flexible and maintain your home’s cleanliness to make it easier on yourself in case of unexpected tours that may just pop up at moment’s notice. You want to make a great first impression every time!

10) Have a Plan in Case Your Home Doesn’t Sell Quick Enough

You and your real estate agent should have already gone over this beforehand, but not every house sells after the first open house. There are many factors at play and depending on the condition of the housing market for your area, your real estate agent may have to use some other strategies in their arsenal to get your house sold.

If it’s lowering the price of your home or holding more open houses, you’ll want to agree on what the next steps should be in case your house isn’t seeing any offers.

11) Negotiate the Selling Price of Your Home

One thing to consider is that the buyer is trying to get the absolute best price they can, while you’re doing the exact same. There will be multiple factors to consider as each home sold and purchased is different. For example, if it’s a buyer’s market that means the buyer has the upper hand because there are multiple listings with fewer offers being made. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make huge concessions in order to sell your home.

This is where your agent really steps up. They will help you navigate the negotiation process, and will give you their advice on how to proceed when offers are being made. Luckily, you interviewed and hired the right agent, so you know they have your best interests in mind. There are several factors and tactics to consider when entering this phase. Your agent will help you every step of the way as you navigate through the negotiation process.

You most likely have made many great memories in your home. Your children may have grown up in your house and marks of their heights years past still scar the wall near the kitchen. It’s difficult, but try to separate yourself – emotionally – from your house. Whatever your memories may be, just remember they are not lost, but they also have no place in negotiations. Try to remain objective during this process and rely on your real estate agent for advice and how to proceed.

12) Sign and Close

This is the moment you and your agent have been working towards. You’ve agreed on a price with the buyers, any and all inspections and appraisals of your home have been completed, and you are now signing the papers to sell your house. Congratulations, you’ve done it!


Article re-posted with permission by the author, Jeff AnttilaRedfin

Posted by South Florida Home Inspections  |  Comments Off on How to Sell Your House in 2019  |  in Realtor Tips

What You Need to Buy a House in 2019

You are about to embark on one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences that can ever come from spending money: buying a home. If you are buying a home in 2019, you should know that the entire process is not quick, but when all is said and done, there are few things more exhilarating than buying a house. This guide will help equip you with what you need to buy a house this year.

1. Check Your Credit Score

Before applying for a loan and certainly before ever making an offer on a house, you should know your credit score. Why is your credit score important? Well, it’s not only the difference between getting a low-interest rate on a home loan versus a high one, but it will also directly impact how much a bank or lender will actually loan you. There are several websites you can use to check your credit score, here are a few to consider: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian.

You can check your own score as much as once a day without affecting your credit, also known as a soft inquiry. Hard inquiries are when financial institutions check your credit score, typically when you’re applying for a loan or credit card. Hard inquiries lower your credit score a few points, so try to keep hard inquiries to a minimum.

2. Improve Your Credit Score

Maybe you just checked your credit score and realized it’s not as high as you had expected. Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do now that will help raise your credit score so you can capitalize on a great interest rate.

Though you can easily implement steps to help your credit score, fixing or raising a credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It’s imperative to start now so when you go to apply for a home loan your credit score will (hopefully) be where you want it. Here are three tips to help improve your credit score, and recommended by John Heath, Directing Attorney at Lexington Law:

  • Obtain and Closely Review Your Free Credit Report: In order to improve your credit score, you first need to know what information is on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the option to obtain a free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies once every twelve months. Your credit report contains information including your current and past residences, how you pay your bills, bankruptcies, foreclosures and more. Obtaining and understanding the information on your credit report will help you know what you may need to address in order to improve your credit score.

 

  • Use a Credit Report Repair Company to Dispute Errors: Your credit history is 35 percent of your FICO score, and according to a 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 40 million Americans have something that is incorrect on their credit report. While a late payment or derogatory mark from a creditor may seem harmless, it can have long-standing consequences, in some instances staying on your report for seven years. If you have errors on your credit report, consider working with a credit repair company, who can navigate the complexities of credit repair, contact the credit bureaus on your behalf and help remove any errors as quickly as possible.

 

  • Spread Credit Card Debt Across Multiple Cards: If any of your credit cards are close to the maximum utilization point, it will be a red flag to lenders, who see this as an indication that you could be having financial issues. If you have multiple cards, spreading the balance out between them could make sense. For example, instead of having one card that is 90 percent maxed out while two other cards have a zero balance, having a 30 percent balance on each card can help your credit score. Reducing overall debt is always the best option, but spreading out your balance can have a positive impact.

 

“Improving one’s credit score may take time, but it can be done. Bad credit is not  irrevocable,” said Heath. “Developing good habits and repairing your credit report will help increase your credit score so you’re able to secure a home loan or a great interest rate with confidence.”

3. Know What You Can Afford

The best way to determine how much house you can afford is to simply use an Affordability calculator. Though calculators such as these do not necessarily account for all of your monthly expenditures, they certainly are a great tool for understanding your larger financial situation.

After you figure out what you can comfortably afford, you can then start online window shopping for houses and really begin to narrow down what you want in a house versus what you can afford. Are you looking at specific neighborhoods? How many bedrooms do you want? Do you need a large yard, big deck, swimming pool, man cave, she shed, etc?

Understanding what you can afford in the area you want to buy will help keep you grounded and focused on what you actually want in a house versus what might be nice to have.

4. Save Up For a Down Payment

Unless you want to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), you really want to save up for a sizable down payment. PMI is an added insurance charged by mortgage lenders in order to protect themselves in case you default on your loan payments. The biggest problem with PMIs for homeowners is that they usually cost you hundreds of dollars each month. Money that is not going against the principal of your mortgage.

How much should you save for a house? Twenty percent down is typical with most mortgage lenders in order to avoid paying for PMI. However, there are other types of home loans, such as a VA loan if you have served in the military and qualify, that may allow you to put down less than twenty percent while avoiding PMIs altogether.

As an added benefit to having a sizable down payment, you may also receive a lower interest rate that will save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over time. So start saving now!

5. Build Up Your Savings

Lenders like to see a healthy savings account and other investments or assets (i.e. 401k, CDs, after-tax investments) that you can tap into during hard times. What they really want to see is that you are not living paycheck to paycheck. A healthy savings account and other investments are a good idea in general as it will help you establish your future financial independence, but it is also a necessary item on your checklist of what you need to buy a house in 2019.

6. Have a Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Another key component banks and other lenders consider when issuing loans, and at what interest rate, is your debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is a lender’s way of comparing your monthly housing expenses and other debts with how much you earn.

So what is a healthy debt-to-income ratio when applying for a home loan? The short answer is the lower the better, but definitely, no more than 43% or you may not even qualify for a loan at all. There are two DTIs to consider as well.

The Front-End DTI: This DTI typically includes housing-related expenses such as mortgage payments and insurance. You want to shoot for a front-end DTI of 28%.

The Back-End DTI: This DTI includes all other debts you may have, such as credit cards or car loans. You want a back-end DTI of 36% or less. A simple way to improve this DTI is to pay down your debts to creditors.

How do you calculate your DTI ratio? You can use this equation for both front-end and back-end DTIs:

DTI = total debt / gross income

7. Budget for Extra Costs

There are a lot of little costs that go into buying a house that are overlooked by new home buyers all the time. Though there are some things, such as sales tax and home insurance, that can be wrapped into a home loan and monthly mortgage, there are several little things that cannot be included into the home-buying package and need to be paid for out of pocket.

Though these items can range in price depending on the area, size and cost of the house your buying, here is a list of extra costs you should consider (not all inclusive):

  • Home Appraisal Fee
  • Home Inspection Fee
  • Geological study
  • Closing costs*
  • Property taxes**
  • Home insurance**
  • Utility hookup/start fees
  • HOA fees
  • Home remodeling/updating
  • Existing propane gas

*Closing costs can sometimes be wrapped into the home loan, depending on the agreement with your lender.

**Property taxes and home insurance can be paid separately or your lender could include it into your monthly mortgage payment.

8. Don’t Close Old Credit Card Accounts Or Apply for New Ones

Closing a credit card account will not raise your credit score. In fact, in some cases, it may actually lower it. Instead, try to pay down the balance as much as you can, while continuing to make your monthly payments on time. If you have an old credit card you never use anymore, just ignore it, or at least don’t close it until after you have purchased your new home.

Opening new credit cards before buying a home is also not a good idea. You don’t want creditors checking your credit or opening new cards under your name, as you may lose some points on your credit score.

The absolute worst thing you can do is max out one of your credit cards, even if the limit on the card is low. If you do, your credit score may plummet. Try tackling your credit cards with the highest interest rate first, then as one gets paid off, focus on the next card until you’re free and clear.

9. A Solid Employment History

If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, lenders like consistency, including your employment history. Lenders like to see a borrower with the same employer for about two years.

What if you have a job with an irregular or inconsistent pay schedule? People with jobs such as contract positions, who are self-employed, or have irregular work schedules can still qualify for a home loan. A mortgage known as a ‘Bank Statement’ mortgage is becoming rapidly popular with lenders as more self-employed or what has been referred to as the ‘gig economy’ has taken off.

10. Know the Difference Between a Fixed Rate and an Adjustable Rate Mortgage

The difference between these two types of mortgage rates really lies within their names. A fixed rate loan is exactly that, an interest rate that will never change the moment it’s locked in. You will pay the same amount the very first month you pay your home loan and will continue to pay that same exact amount over the course of thirty years (or however long the loan term is).

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is typically a mortgage that starts out as a lower rate than fixed interest rates but then is adjusted each year typically resulting in a rate higher than a fixed rate. A 5-1 ARM is a popular mortgage offered by lenders, which is a hybrid between fixed and adjustable rate mortgages. Your mortgage would start out at a lower fixed rate for the first five years, then after that time period has elapsed, the rate would then be adjusted on an annual basis for the remainder of the loan term.

11. Follow Interest Rates

It is important to know what interests rates are doing. The big question is are they on the rise or are they falling?

When the economy is good the Federal Reserve typically raises the interest rate in an effort to slow down economic growth in order to control inflation and rising costs. When the economy is in the dumps the Fed does the exact opposite. They lower the interest rate in order to entice more people to make larger purchases that require loans (i.e. land, cars, and houses) to help stimulate the economy.

As new soon-to-be homeowners, it’s a good idea to know how the overall economy is doing, and more importantly, how it’s impacting the interest rates you’ll soon be applying for. In 2018, after years of bottom of the barrel interest rates, the Fed raised interest rates three times and is projecting to raise it three more times in 2019.

Why are small hikes in interest rates so important to you? To put it into perspective, even a one percent increase in your interest rate on a home loan is the difference of paying or saving tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments on your home loan over time.

12. Know How Much Time it Takes to Buy a House

The home buying process from start to finish is time-consuming and very relative to individual circumstances and the housing market in your area. However, there are some general universal constants that you can expect, such as a cash offer on a house is usually much quicker than a traditional loan, and if there is a perfect house in a good neighborhood and at a great price, you better expect competition and added time for a seller to review offers.

Depending on the housing market in your area and possibly which season you’re buying in, it can take you a couple of weeks to find a home or more than a year. But after you find your home you can typically expect the entire process from making an offer on a house to walking in its front door, to be as little as a few weeks to a couple of months on average.

13. Find a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent

There are several ways to find a knowledgeable real estate agent. Many people rely on recommendations from friends and family, while others look to online reviews. While both of these scenarios work really well and can land you a great real estate agent, the reason these agents rise above the others as the best of the best or the crème de la crème is because of their intentions.

A good real estate agent isn’t trying to get you into a house as quickly as possible so they can earn a commission. Instead, you want an agent that will act as your guide through the home buying process, while having your best interests in mind. A good agent will be able to tell you straight if they think a house is a good fit for you, or if you should keep looking. They should also be expert negotiators so that you get the best deal possible.

14. Find a Mortgage Lender

There are a few things to keep in mind when researching a mortgage lender. The first thing that comes to most people’s’ minds is what mortgage rate can they get. You may have to shop around to find the best rate because lower the rate the more money you save.

Secondly, how does that mortgage lender rate compared to other lenders? By looking at positive and negative online reviews you can usually establish a theme pretty quickly of the strengths and weaknesses of the lender, and what you can possibly expect for a level of service down the road.

Ask the lender what their average length of time is to close on a house after the offer has been accepted?  A good lender versus a bad one can be the difference of moving into your new home two to four weeks earlier. You want to find out how streamlined their processes are.

15. Get Pre-approved

When being approved by a mortgage lender, you should be aware that there is a small but relevant difference between the typical fast preapproval for a home loan versus an underwritten pre-approval.

The fast pre-approval usually encompasses a credit report and a loan officer review and can be done in less than a couple of hours. This basic pre-approval allows you to quickly know how much you can afford and then make an offer on a house that may have just come on the market.

The underwritten pre-approval usually takes about twenty-four hours and includes a credit report, loan officer review, underwriter review, and a compliance/fraud review. Though this process takes longer, your offer on a house is actually stronger. Eventually, if you’re planning on buying a house, you will have to go through the underwritten pre-approval process anyway, so it’s better to jump on it from the start.

16. Research Neighborhoods or Areas You Want to Live

There are many variables to think about when researching your future residents. The key to beginning your research is to determine those variables most important to you. Are you looking for a good school district, a large house, convenience to commuter options, or a specific neighborhood that is extremely friendly and ranks high on Walk Score?

Your real estate agent will most likely tell you to figure out your list of the things you absolutely want in a house versus the extra features that you would like to have, but wouldn’t deter you from a house if it wasn’t there.

Your list will help your agent narrow down the number of houses they’ll show you, saving you time by only showing you houses you’d actually be interested in.

17. Shop For Your Home and Make an Offer

Now that you know where you want to live and you’re pre-approved, the fun begins. You get to look at houses! Once you find the house you know would be a great fit for you and your family, you’ll want to make an offer.

There are numerous variables to consider and hopefully, your knowledgeable real estate agent will help you through this process. Understanding the market conditions, how houses have been selling in the neighborhood and at what price (above or below asking), and knowing if there are other competing offers will help you assess and determine how you’d like to make an offer.

Negotiating an offer on a house can be emotionally taxing, so do your research and rely on your agent’s advice so you come to the table prepared.

18. Get a Home Inspection

Congratulations are in order! The sellers have accepted your offer. Now you want to get the home inspected to make sure there are no underlying issues that could cost you thousands of dollars down the road, such as a bad roof or foundation. Usually, a home inspection is a contingency built into the initial offer, and your real estate agent will help you set this up. Though you can waive this contingency if you’re trying to make a competitive offer in a hot market. Just be aware that if you do waive a home inspection contingency, you may be taking on considerable risk.

There are several types of home inspections, but in general, a typical home inspection involves a certified inspector that will go in, around, under, and top of your house looking for anything that could be of concern. Though they will go into crawl spaces and attics as part of their inspection, they will not open walls to see if the plumbing or electrical is good. However, they look for signs that could possibly point to those issues.

Then they will put their findings into a nice little booklet for you with pictures that basically becomes a miniature instruction manual for your house. If there are fixes that need to be addressed, they will certainly let you know.

19. Have the Home Appraised

Home appraisals are an important part of the process because oftentimes house prices can quickly skyrocket when the housing market is hot, and banks do not like to loan out more money than what a home is worth. A home appraiser will not only tell you what the home is actually worth for the area and for the current housing market, but this appraisal will also directly affect the size of loan the bank will give you.

If the home appraisal comes back and states that the house is worth $300,000, but you made an offer of $310,000, the bank will most likely only lend you $300k. You will then either be stuck with paying the additional $10k out of pocket, or you may try to renegotiate the price with the sellers to see if they would be willing to come down. Or you may lose the house altogether.

Also, the mortgage lender will usually set up the home appraisal so you can take this time to focus on other home-buying tasks that need to be finished up.

20. Close the Sale and Sign The Papers

Congratulations, you’re a homeowner! Your real estate agent should help you map out the last details, such as when and where you should sign all the papers to take ownership of the house and, of course, the handing over of the keys. Welcome to your new home.


Article re-posted with permission by the author, Jeff AnttilaRedfin

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Why a Home Insurance Inspection is Necessary?

Why a Home Insurance Inspection

Homeowners insurance safeguards your home and possessions against damage, theft, fire, wind and liability. A home inspection provides both you and your insurance provider with an idea of the home’s health. Your insurance provider uses the inspection report as a tool in assessing risk, a vital part of developing your insurance policy. You can also use the report as a tool in prioritizing any necessary home repairs, if any issues are found.

A Home Insurance Inspection is Different from Regular Home Inspections

A regular home inspection is done with reference to the marketability of the home. A home insurance inspection is a limited inspection that only covers the specific points insurance carriers are concerned with. It does not provide any information on its condition for selling or buying, nor does it guarantee insurability.

Replacement Cost

Your insurer is liable to pay for the losses caused by hurricanes, theft or fire as specified in the policy. In case the home is totally destroyed, the insurer has to pay for rebuilding the house. This cost can be remarkably different from the market value of the home. The report helps the insurance carrier to assess any existing risks for damage within the house, and thus mitigate their potential outlay.

4 Systems that are Covered in the Insurance Inspection

While insurance companies do not provide specific instructions on what to look for in this type of home inspection, there are 4 key areas that experience has shown they care about:

  1. The roof
  2. The electrical system
  3. Plumbing and heating systems
  4. Ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

What the Home Inspector will look at in an Insurance Home Inspection

The home inspector will take note of the age and type of system in each of the four areas listed above. They will inspect essential parts and overall condition of the system. They will also take a look at whether or not the system has been updated to meet more current standards.

Proper Maintenance is the Key to Pass Home Insurance Inspection

This inspection can give you an idea of possible areas you need to update and/or repair in order to rectify any disqualifying areas. If insurance is denied, or severely limited, or overly expensive, you can request from the insurance carrier’s underwriter any actions that you might be able to take to improve or obtain a suitable insurance policy.

We offer a variety of home inspections. For further information on how we can help you, please call us at (561) 818-5593 or fill out our online form.

Resources:
“Home Buyers Insurance Checklist.” 2016. Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.iii.org/article/home-buyers-insurance-checklist.
Insurance. “System-Page-Title.” Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb025.html.Accessed August 5, 2016. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/cis_ofis_03homegd_74854_7.pdf.
Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/docs/doi/consumer/homeowners-guide.pdf.
Hungelmann, Jack. “Why Do I Need A Home Insurance Inspection?” 2016. Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.bankrate.com/finance/insurance/why-do-i-need-home-insurance-inspection.aspx

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Examining the Exterior of Your Home Involves 4 Key Areas

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You should know what a home inspection involves when it comes to the exterior of your house. It may not cover everything that you think it does.

First, know that an exterior home inspection is a visual inspection only.  If something is not visible and easily accessible from the ground level, the inspector will not include it in his report.

Second, an exterior home inspection focuses on the house primarily. It may not include all the structures on the property. You will want to discuss any outbuildings, pools, and other structures you may want to include with your home inspector. He may help you decide whether or not those structures are relevant to the purpose for the inspection.

Third, prepare your home for the inspection. As the inspection only covers what is easily visible and accessible, you should prepare the property as best you can to make the inspector’s job easier. Move obstructions such as, outdoor furniture, lawn and garden equipment, tools, or outdoor decorations. If you have vegetation growing near the exterior of the home, it may limit what the inspector can see (that may or may not be an issue). Move any cars out of the way, as much as possible.

An Exterior Home Inspection Looks at 4 Key Areas

The home inspector will only take a look at areas that are easily accessible and visible. Their report will point out areas that may be deficient in some way. The report is not a guarantee nor does it predict the future. There are 4 key areas that the exterior home inspector will focus on:

  • Exterior walls, doors, and windows. Specifically exterior wall cladding/siding, flashing, and trim. The inspector is not required to look at window and door screening, shutters, awnings, or other seasonal or similarly protective accessories or devices.
  • Exterior structures. This includes attached decks, porches, balconies, stoops, steps, and their associated railings. It may also include garages and carports. It does not necessarily include any other outbuildings, recreational buildings, swimming pools, fences or other items (such as sea walls, break-walls, boat lifts or docks).
  • Roof elements that are easily visible. The home inspector is not required to scale a ladder and so the only items he will focus on near the roof are items easily visible from the ground level: eaves, soffits, and/or fascias.
  • Surrounding walkways, driveways, and patios. The exterior home inspection typically covers any walkways, driveways, or patios that lead to the home itself.

 If any deficiencies are found upon a visual inspection of the home’s exterior, the inspector will provide you with reasons why they deemed that item deficient or near the end of its service life. They may provide you with recommendations for correction and/or monitoring.

If you have any questions on what type of home inspection service you need, please contact us.

Resources:

STATE OF FLORIDA HOME INSPECTION STANDARDS OF PRACTICE. PDF. http://www.pelicaninspections.com/fl_standard_of_practice.pdf

 

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Home Inspection Checklist on What to Inspect and What Not

^D6169CD320BDA954D6FA721623C8FAF3293386EE3DC9C33A5B^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrBuying a home is one of the most exciting, important, and expensive investments to make. A critical process that requires careful consideration. The house you decide to buy will have to meet your needs in terms of desired location, aesthetics and layout, and cost.

That doesn’t even cover the “health” of the building. Checking on the building’s structure and systems requires professional help. Often this pre-purchase inspection will give the prospective buyer information on how certain elements of the property stand up, what might need repair now, and what might need repair in the near future. This information allows the buyer to make an informed decision in the purchase and arms them for negotiations with the seller.

The International Association of Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) has set a standard inspection checklist that outlines what should be covered by licensed home inspectors in a pre-purchase home inspection.

Structural Elements. Foundation check or any evidence of sagging or bowing of the structure and window alignment.

Grounds. Possible leaks that may occur from the septic tank and drainage, as well as, the condition of driveways, fences, and sidewalks.

Roof. Condition of the roof covering; any repairs/patches to flat roofs; clear vents; damage to chimneys; and properly working gutters.

Exterior surfaces. Correct clearance between ground and sliding material; condition of exterior paint or siding; and properly working lights and electrical outlets.

Attic. Proper insulation and ventilation, with no sign of leaking or water damage.

Interior Plumbing. Covers damaged or leaking pipes, water temperature installation, toilet, bathtubs, and showers.

Electrical System. Up-to-code condition and type of visible wiring, and proper function of circuit breakers, outlets, light fixtures, and fans.

Appliances. Functioning stove, dishwashers, refrigerator, microwave, washer and dryer, and all other household appliances.

Heating and cooling systems. Ensures working furnace, air conditioning, water heater, chimney, and and fireplace.

Basement. Solid foundation, walls, and floors, with no signs of water intrusion or damage.

Garage. Solid foundation, windows, ceiling, framing, and roof; working garage door opener; up-to-code electrical system; and proper function of outlets.

There are areas, however, that are not covered by a standard inspection, which should also be considered like pest control, swimming pools, asbestos, radon gas, lead paint, and toxic mold.

Guard your investment. Hire professionally trained and qualified home inspectors from The South Florida Home Inspection Associates.

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Find and Destroy Mold BEFORE it Destroys Your Home!

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Mold is one of the most common forms of fungi and can be destructive for various surfaces. Mold testing will help you determine if you have mold at your home. The presence of mold in your home can cause serious health problems for some people. The damage to surfaces can also be significant.

Mold Signs.

The first sign indicating the presence of mold is the smell. Even if you do not see it, there is probably mold hidden somewhere. Mold testing will help you localize it.

Having allergy symptoms might also be a sign of mold hidden in your home – there could be mold spores in the air. Moreover, every time you breathe, they cause an allergic reaction such as a runny nose, sneezing and sore eyes. These symptoms indicate that you should have a mold test performed in your home as soon as possible.

Why you Should Undertake Mold Testing.

It will help you to determine if you have a mold problem, and if so, how hazardous that mold is. You can purchase a do it yourself mold test, but it is much better to use the services of a qualified mold inspector. Only an expert can professionally collect and analyze of the samples from within your home.

Since this test provides you with a snapshot of the amount of mold particles within a period, samples have to be taken from different locations within the home. There are three types of mold tests: air, bulk, and surface mold testing. Combining all three of them will offer the best results.

Mold Inspection before Having your Home Tested.

A mold inspection needs to be done before any testing. If the inspection shows that there is mold in your home, recommendations on removal procedures may be obtained. If testing shows that the mold infestation is of the toxic variety, then professional help is recommended for the mold removal.

South Florida Home Inspection Associates offers professional mold testing and inspection services. If you have mold in your home, we will help you find it. We will help you to confirm that you live in a healthy home.

Sources:

https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Tbc0LIe3dzcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Mold+Inspection&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiG1LKI7dHMAhVGG5QKHXYVC-oQ6AEIIzAA#v=onepage&q=Mold%20Inspection&f=false

https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=9784qLnSeaAC&pg=PA158&dq=Mold+Testing&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiF3JCW7dHMAhWIJ5QKHaoEC0sQ6AEIIzAA#v=onepage&q=Mold%20Testing&f=false

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A Home Inspection for My Brand New House?

Do I Need a Home Inspection for My Brand New House?

A Home Inspection for My Brand New House?

YES! You need a home inspection for your new house. Even new constructions still have defects. Moreover, this may lead to many problems in the future, and the repair bill is often costly. Construction flaws might appear during the building of the house, even if the best builders work for you.

After the general inspection, some other inspections may be necessary. These are usually inspections of the foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical installation, and others as required.

The home inspector usually starts their inspection on the roof. Then, every major house system should be checked – the plumbing, septic, electrical, heating installations, and so on.

Why have a Home Inspection?

Only the report of a home inspector can guarantee the quality of construction. If possible, you should get an inspection on a new build before the sheetrock goes up. Thus, you will be able to demand that the builder fix any issues that would otherwise be covered up. A final home inspection is essential before closing on the property.

What Will a Home Inspector Do for You?

Understanding the difference between the various kinds of inspectors and inspections is essential. The city or county building inspectors will only check for code violations, the quality of the work is of no interest to them. Licensed home inspectors have a checklist that cover slightly different areas. For more information what home inspectors do during this kind of inspection, please read this article.

Never allow builders to fool you into thinking that an inspection is not necessary. A detailed inspection significantly reduces the risk of buying a new home with problems. Repairing them in the future may be problematic, not to mention costly. Take precautions early and hire a house inspector to ensure that everything in your new home is stable and safe.

South Florida Home Inspection Associates will provide you with professional home inspection services. Our expert house inspectors are members of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI). We have a special home inspection specifically designed for new home builds, contact us for more information.

Source: https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=vIMCBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA120&dq=Do+I+Have+to+Get+My+Brand+New+House+Inspected?&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqiLTQ7NHMAhXEQpQKHSuBDDwQ6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=Do%20I%20Have%20to%20Get%20My%20Brand%20New%20House%20Inspected%3F&f=false

 

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Why Flipped Homes Need Home Inspection?

The purpose of a home inspection is to give you an expert opinion about the structural and functional components of the house based upon a visual examination. Flipped houses need a home inspection because they are bought and sold quickly to make huge profits. Most investors purchase shabby houses, make quick and cheap repairs and conceal serious defects under attractive cover-ups. A home inspection points out the existing and potential issues with the home to help you proceed carefully.7694487

Your home inspector examines the following things to detect underlying issues-

Structure of the House

Your home inspector will look for structural defects with the home such as uneven floors, cracking in the exterior brick or substandard finish work inside the home and inform you about the same.

Interior

You might fall for shiny and fascinating interiors- newly installed light fixtures, new carpets, switches and windows-but your home inspector will notice the drawbacks. A seemingly new and perfect kitchen with new/repainted cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops might not be that perfect! Cabinet doors / drawers might be getting blocked by other cabinets. Appliances might not have an outlet to plug them in to. Bathrooms that have been redone might have vanity cabinets that are too small for the space.

Electrical System

According to Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections, “I don’t find many electrical problems on flipped houses.  Even the worst home flippers usually know better than to mess with the electrical; they don’t want their houses to burn down.”Electricals in a flipped home are usually fine.

Heating System

The flipped home might have an outdated and unsafe heating system at the end of its life expectancy.  Reuben Saltzman says, “I’ve found furnaces and boilers creating high levels of carbon monoxide that the heating contractors said were fine.”

Air Conditioning

Investors usually put up a new AC if they are selling a flipped home in summer while in winter they just leave the old, defective AC as such.

Plumbing System

Your home inspector will inform you about serious issues with the drains such as leaks and clogged drains at the kitchen sink, and probably at other locations.

Roof

Shingles on the roof might be in a pathetic state. Flippers usually don’t replace the roof covering as it is expensive but doesn’t fetch more value for the home.

South Florida Home Inspection Association is a reputed name in the field of home inspection services. We provide all kinds of services related to inspections, maintenance and appraisals. Please feel free to call us on 561-818-5593 or visit us at http://www.sfloridahomeinspection.com/contact-us-2/

 

 

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  • S. Florida Home Inspection Assoc.
    P.O. Box 32592, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33420
    Phone: 561-818-5593 Fax: (772) 325-0204 E-mail: sfloridahome@gmail.com