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Quick Plumbing Inspection

9/25/2018

Quick Plumbing Inspection

No one wants to waste water or money.  For that reason, take a few minutes every other month to do the following inspections:

  1. Check to see if cutoff valves on sinks and toilets are working properly. 

    Many times, builders will put individual cutoffs on supply lines to sinks and toilets.  It is reasonable to expect them to work but after some time, they can corrode which prevents opening and closing.  It is a good idea to test them occasionally before you need them in an emergency.

  2.  Fill each sink with a few inches of water to see if they drain in what you feel is a normal time.

    A slow-draining sink can be an indication of a clog that builds up around the insides of the pipe.  Common causes are food, grease, hair and soap scum.  Plunging can take care of some slow-running sinks.  After partially filling the sink with water, seal the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down a few times.

  3.   Inspect each toilet to see if they are leaking water from the tank into the bowl.

    Toilets that continue to run after being flushed can use a large amount of water in a month's time.  Generally, the problem comes from a flapper that doesn't seat properly.  Sometimes, the chain is keeping it from closing properly or the flapper itself may need to be replaced.

    Another issue could be that the flush valve needs to be replaced.  These can be purchased at Lowe's or Home Depot for about $20.00 and are relatively easy to change out.  There are lots of instructional videos on the internet and it can save money if you give it a try.

If you need a recommendation for a good plumber to take care of something you discover, please feel free to call me at (269) 217-4825.

How to Clean Gutters

9/25/2018

How to Clean Gutters

The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation.  When they're blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.

Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year.  More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.

If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider.  If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters.  Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you're on the ladder.

Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.

?         Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned.

?         Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.

?         When you're at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.

?         If the water doesn't drain easily, the downspout could be blocked.  Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber's snake, try to dislodge the blockage.

?         Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.

?         Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.

There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier.  Check out their websites and search for "gutter cleaning".

Moisture & Mold

9/10/2018

Moisture & Mold

Moisture is mold's best friend and it thrives between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit which is why it is commonly found in homes.  Mold spores float in the air and can grow on virtually any substance with moisture including tile, wood, drywall, paper, carpet, and food.

Moisture control and eliminating water problems are key to preventing mold. Common sources of moisture can be roof leaks, indoor plumbing leaks, outdoor drainage problems, damp basements or crawl spaces, steam from bathrooms or kitchen, condensation on cool surfaces, humidifiers, wet clothes drying inside, or improper ventilation of heating and cooking appliances.

  • Control the moisture problem
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces using soap and water or other cleanser; dry completely
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • Discard porous materials with extensive mold growth
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Periodically, inspect the area for signs of moisture and new mold growth

The EPA suggests that if the moldy area is less than ten square feet, you can probably handle the cleanup yourself.  If the affected area is larger than that, find a contractor or professional service provider. 

Increasing ventilation in a bathroom by running a fan for at least 30 minutes or opening a window can help remove moisture and control mold growth.  After showering, squeegee the walls and doors. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.  Cleaning more frequently will also prevent mold from recurring or keep it to a minimum.

A simple solution to clean most mold is a 1:8 bleach/water mixture.  Since homes have thermostatically controlled temperatures and water is used all day long in the kitchen and bathrooms, the environment is conducive to mold. 

See Ten things you should know about mold written by the EPA.

Reduce Refinancing Costs

9/10/2018

Reduce Refinancing Costs

There is much more than a lower rate and payment to determine whether to refinance a mortgage.  Lenders try to make refinancing as attractive as possible by rolling the closing costs into the new mortgage so there isn't any out of pocket cash required.

The closing costs associated with a new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance.  The following suggestions may help you to reduce the expense to refinance.

?         Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.

?         Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper. 

?         Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.

?         If you're refinancing an FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.

?         Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.

?         Reducing the loan-to-value so mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses and lower the payment.

?         Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.

?         You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.

?         There may be a discount on the mortgagee's title policy available on a refinance.

?         Points on refinancing, unlike a purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan ($3,000 in points on a 30-year loan would result in a $100 tax deduction each year.)

?         Consider a 15-year loan.  If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30-year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.

A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure Form.  Every dollar counts, and they belong to you.

Act Decisively

9/10/2018

Act Decisively

Whether it is hesitation or procrastination due to uncertainty, it can cost buyers by having to pay more for both the house and the financing.  This is one of those markets where most of the experts expect interest rates and prices will continue to rise through 2019.

The National Association of REALTORS? reports there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale which is close to the same as last year's inventory.  Normal inventory is considered to be a 6-month supply.

If during the period you're waiting to buy, the price of the home goes up by 5% and the mortgage rate increases by 1%, the payment on a $275,000 home with a 95% mortgage could be $233.80 more each and every month.  Over a seven-year period, the delay to purchase would total close to $20,000.

To act decisively, you need good information; a confused mind will not generally make a decision.  In today's market, you need to know exactly what price home you can qualify for and you need to know what kind of home you can expect for that price. 

You'll want a housing and a mortgage professional you can trust to give you the information you need to make good decisions for yourself and your family.  We'd like to be your real estate professional and can recommend a trusted mortgage professional.

To get a better idea about what it may cost you for a home in your price range, use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator.  If you have any questions, call me at (269) 488-9292.

What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home

8/13/2018

What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home

It’s understandable; you’re excited; you’ve found the right home, negotiated a contract, made a loan application and inspections.  Closing is not that far away, and you are making plans to move and put personal touches on your new home.

Even if you have an initial approval on your mortgage, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller.  The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.

Most lending and real estate professionals recommend NOT to:

  • Make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
  • Buy things for your new home until after you close
  • Apply, co-sign or add any new credit
  • Close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
  • Quit your job or change jobs
  • Change banks
  • Talk to the seller without your agent

Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home.  It’s understandable to be excited and feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is fine but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

Waiting Will Cost More

6/18/2018

Waiting Will Cost More

An economist responded when asked how interest rates would change: “They may fall some and then, rise and after that, they’ll fluctuate.”

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Just because interest rates have been low for ten years doesn’t mean they are supposed to be low. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice this year and are expected to go up twice more plus three times next year.  Mortgage rates have risen from 3.95% to 4.62% since the first of January.

Increased rates directly affect the payments on homes but so does the price. With inventory levels remaining low, the prices will continue to go up. When interest rates and prices rise at the same time, it costs buyers a lot more.

If the mortgage rates go up by one percent and prices increase by five percent in the next year, the payment on a $250,000 home could go up by $200 a month. In a seven-year period, the buyer would pay $18,000 more for the home.

People planning to buy a home, need to investigate the possibilities of accelerating their timetable to take advantage of lower rates and prices. Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy  calculator to see how much more it could cost you to wait.  Call Profile.BusinessPhone} if you have questions about what can be done now.

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The Tax Difference in Second Homes

6/11/2018

The Tax Difference in Second Homes

A principal residence and a second home have some similar benefits, but they have some key tax differences. A principal residence is the primary home where you live and a second home is used mainly for personal enjoyment while limiting possible rental activity to a maximum of 14 days per year.

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Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Mortgage Interest Deduction allows a taxpayer to deduct the qualified interest on a principal residence and a second home. The interest is reduced from a maximum of $1,000,000 combined acquisition debt to a maximum of $750,000 combined acquisition debt for both the first and second homes.

Property taxes on first and second homes are deductible but limited to a combined maximum of $10,000 together with other state and local taxes paid.

The gain on a principal residence retained the exclusion of $250,000/$500,000 for single/married taxpayers meeting the requirements. Unchanged by the new tax law, the gains on second homes must be recognized when sold or disposed.

Tax-deferred exchanges are not allowed for property used for personal purposes such as second homes. Gain on second homes owned for more than 12 months is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate.

This article is intended for informational purposes. Advice from a tax professional for your specific situation should be obtained prior to making a decision that can have tax implications.

 

When Neighbors Don't Seem to Care

6/4/2018

When Neighbors Don't Seem to Care

A home that isn't being maintained like others in the neighborhood can negatively affect your visual sense of appeal and in some extreme cases, even affect property values. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, excessive noise, unruly pets, paint peeling on the home or even a car or boat parked in front of the home that hasn't moved in weeks.

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Most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct an issue once it is brought to their attention. A practical but possibly, confrontational solution is to contact the responsible person and describe your perception of the issue. However, they may not always agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.

An owner-occupant may be more sympathetic to the neighbors and willing to correct the issue. If you think the home might a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and welcome the notification to protect their investment.

Another alternative might be to notify the homeowner's association, if there is one. One of the benefits of a HOA is to enforce community appearance standards as set in the covenants or bylaws that specify how properties must be maintained. This could be a less personal method of reaching a beneficial outcome.

If the source of the problem is a code or housing violation, the city may be the ultimate authority. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance.

 

Flag Protocol

5/30/2018

Flag Protocol

The American flag is obviously a symbol of our country but it has come to remind us of every man and woman who has fought for the freedom that we enjoy. The emotions that are stirred by images of our flag can run from happiness to sadness to trust and everything in between.

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Most of us learned American flag etiquette or the Flag Code when we were young but occasionally, it is a good idea to review the guidelines so that the flag is treated with the respect it deserves.

  • The U.S. flag should not be flown at night unless a light is shown on it.
  • The U.S. flag should not be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • A U.S. flag should be displayed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff in mourning.
  • When displaying multiple flags of a state, community or society on the same flagpole, the U.S. flag must always be on top.
  • When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right. No flag should be higher or larger than the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When the U.S. flag is flown with those of other countries, each flag should be the same size and must be on separate poles of the same height. Ideally, the flags should be raised and lowered simultaneously.

More information on flag etiquette can be found at the Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

 

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