10 Ways to Destroy your Home (Part 2)

The idea of this blog was to assist 1st time home buyers with the knowledge of the minimal maintenance that can prevent them from having to spend thousands of dollars on repairs.  Most of these fall under the category of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Often $20 a year will protect you from most of these hazards. This is not the time to adopt the philosophy “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”  Especially when dealing with water, by the time it is broken, you may not be able to afford to fix it.  My last blog dealt strictly with water situations, to summarize again:  If there is water, where water should not be, it is always a problem.  Today, we address some other items that can also cause majors that are easily avoidable.

6.  Failure to clean or change your furnace filter.  Did this one shock you?  Please read on- Furnaces have filters.  They should be replaced at a very bare minimum twice a year.  If you are currently suffering from allergy symptoms, try changing your furnace filter.  Most of us wouldn’t consider opening our windows in the summer without making sure our screens were intact,  (one night with the mosquitoes teaches us that lesson).  Not changing your furnace filter not only leaves your family susceptible to many household allergens, but is also highly destructive to the working parts of the furnace.  If this doesn’t scare you enough to change your filter, consider that a dirty furnace does not run efficiently and is a fire hazard.

7.  Failure to seal your shower/tub grout.  Many people have never thought about the necessity of sealing shower tile and grout.  You would never consider putting on new siding on your home and failure to paint or seal it.  The concept of putting on roof decking and failing to put on shingles is beyond our comprehension, but failing to seal your shower tile and grout at least once a year is equivalent to those items.  Imagine the harsh weather conditions your shower tile is exposes to every day.  I recommend sealing the tile at least once a year using a simple aerosol spray tile sealer that can be purchased for under $10.

8.  Disable your smoke detectors.  I almost feel hypocritical even putting this one on the list, because I am so guilty.  I rationalize that the chances of a fire happening when the power goes out is minimal compared to the almost guarantee that I am going to suffer a night of chirping and the consequences of a bad nights sleep the next day.  Not too mention that I can never get them back on the ceiling after I have taken it down, so there it hangs, advertising my failures.  If you are one of the handful of people reading this:  please invent a Light/solar powered smoke alarm.  However the government may still require battery backup in case their is no power, no light, no sun, etc.  Anyway, lets all go buy a pack of 9-volt batteries right now, so we are prepared, because fire is nothing to mess around with.

9.  Use old washing machine lines.  I have done several remodels this year on homes as a result of burst or leaking washer supply lines and felt it is common enough that it is worth mentioning.  These supply lines are no more than a hose and tend to get brittle over time especially in situations where they are exposed to UV light.  I would recommend at least inspecting these lines once every 5 years and replace them when you move or replace your machines.

10.   Ignore signs of termites.  I am not a huge advocate of spraying for bugs.  My philosophy is that a few bugs have to be better than spraying chemicals in my house.  I will not even kill the red ants around my house, because I heard that red ants are the natural enemy of the termite.  In addition, I would argue that bugs are essential to the ecosystem.  However, when it comes to your families largest investment, bugs and the ecosystem will have to fend for themselves.  Leaking window seals are a great place to live if you are a termite,  this environment provides water, food and shelter.  Having debris in a gutter will also provide water, debris for the termites to eat, and again shelter.  Once a termite has its three basic needs met, they will start to reproduce at a rapid pace creating new generations that all they know to do it eat and have more baby termites.  According to National Pest Management Association, termites cost Americans $5 billion in damage every year.  Also according to NPMA , education on termite basics- identification, warning signs and preventative steps- is key to protecting homes from termites.

10 ways to destroy your home

Lets make this very simple: Water in your home where water shouldn’t be, is always a problem!  We are all aware of the life saving benefits of water, and also the destruction that large forces of water can create, but many times people fail to see the destruction that even a small amount of water can cause.  Even water outside your home can cause damage to the inside of your home.  We have seen a situation where a neighbors gutter was shooting water on to a persons house causing pooling at her foundation.  Over time her brand new house developed a severely large crack inside the home.  Another situation that we have personally dealt with, a persons basement flooded after a heavy rainstorm.  The restoration company suggested a sump pump be placed in the basement to treat the “symptom” at a cost of $10,000.  However, the cure was much simpler and free.  Over the course of time, leaves had been left in the rain gutters which then clogged the down spouts that were designed to take water to the street and into the sewer drains.  During the rainstorm, the water simply had no other place to go.  Most of the items below are $10 or under fixes.  Even if you do not have the maintenance know how, a service call to a professional is still less expensive than repairing the damage water can do if left unchecked.

1.  Failure to maintain proper drainage away from the home.  Proper drainage is defined as 6″ of drop in topography of ground with in the first 10 feet from the edge of the home.  This rule can be modified if an impermeable surface such as concrete is used as an apron is which case a minimum of 1/2″ in 4 feet should be maintained.  In short, water outside your home can effect the inside of your home.  Water applied directly to your foundation will effect the soil supporting your home.  Some soil such as clay are expansive and csn cause your home to uplift when excessive water is applied.  Look for any water that pools near your home.

2.  Failure to disconnect hoses from outside faucets during freezing temperatures.  An exterior faucet is designed with a shut off valve, the water drains out of the faucet allowing it not to freeze.  If a hose is connected to the faucet is does not allow the faucet to drain and will cause it to freeze and burst inside the wall.  Many times this problem is not noticed by a home owner until significant damage has occurred.

3.  Failure to winterize your swamp cooler.  Swamp cooler lines typically run through the attic of your home which is considered a “non conditioned space”.  (Which means, it is not heated.)  An undrained cooler line can freeze and burst with in the attic space and again remain unnoticed until significant damage has been done.  Russ recommends two things for the protection of your swamp cooler.  First, that the cooler line run in a continual down hill slope from the cooler to the point of origin, and upon disconnection, it is disconnected from the point of origin.  Second, whenever possible, run the 1/4″ cooler line sleeved inside a larger line such as a hose of 1/2″ pex pipe.  This not only provides some insulation to the pipe, but also insures that a burst pipe wont leak inside your attic.

4.  Failure to repair leaking water or drain lines.  Some of the most expensive repairs that we have done involve something that begins relatively small.  For example,  a drip from a washer line, refrigerator supply line or sink drain may not seem significant to worry about.  What many fail to realize is that mold growth requires a consistent supply of moisture and a very small drip can supply the needed moisture to destroy a significant amount of surrounding area.  This oftentimes goes unchecked for months or even years until the problem has evolved to the point that a major house remodel is required, to repair what would have initially been under $10.

5.  Failure to clean your gutters.  Gutters full of leaves may not be something we think about much in New Mexico.  ( We do however, live in a desert.) So let me see if I can apply this to something we all understand, to help you see how important this simple home maintenance project is.  Imagine the arroyo no doubt near your home filled with trash, grocery carts, used tires, sometimes a hide-a-bed.  ( Do you get the mental picture?)  As the arroyo does not act effectively when filled with clutter and therefore causes water to over run the embankment causing damage to neighboring homes,  a cluttered rain gutter will not effectively channel water away from your home.  Leaves left on their own eventually becomes sludge, completely blocking downspouts and rendering your gutters useless.

WHEN TO HIRE A CONTRACTOR

gila kitchenI have heard it said that sometimes the most valuable asset someone can possess is knowing what they are NOT good at.  Everyone has different talents and abilities and reaching beyond your limitations can be costly and dangerous.  I saw a sign in a salon once that stated the prices for hair coloring, there was one price for the coloring and a price for fixing a do-it-yourself job.  The price for the do-it-yourself job was double that of just having the professional do it right the first time.  There are times when it is just not cost-effective to “do-it-yourself”.

We often tell people that are looking to build  or remodel a house that they can hire us for free.  In an average remodel, a licensed contractor can complete the work in 30-60 days, whereas a homeowner has a remodel loan with a fairly high interest rate and the completion time is 6 months to a year.  In addition, the do-it-yourself homeowner is working nights and weekends typically causing frustration in the family and a significant amount of interest carrying costs.  So for starters: don’t start a project that you do not have time to devote to and complete in a timely fashion.  Time truly is money.

Many times contractors have deals worked out with the subs: Ie: plumbers and electricians for a discounted rate.  Therefore, when a home owner remodeler calls the electrician for a price, they will typically pay 20% more than a contractor.  Also understand that a contractor uses the same subs day in and day out and therefore has thoroughly vetted them to insure that they will complete the project in a timely and professional manner.  Many times we have seen that a recommendation from a guy that works with your brother-in-law does not always work out as well as hoped.

So once you have taken into account the time involved in doing it yourself and the carrying costs of doing so, add to that the additional cost of hiring your own subcontractors.  Sometimes cheap and easy can become expensive and difficult.  Therefore, you may pay less or the same amount when all is said and done to have it done by a professional.

So now that you have been warned into thinking you would be crazy to tackle your own project, lets talk about when it might make sense:

Know your abilities.  Some of the nicest remodels we have seen have been home owner remodels.  No one, including  a contractor is as interested in your home as you are and therefore you are predisposed to doing the best job you possibly can. Armed with this knowledge, you are also best suited to know your limitation.  Many times contractors will be willing to work with you during a staycation while handling the items you do not feel comfortable with. Just make sure that all parties are comfortable with this arrangement and timelines have been established before the project starts.

Most homeowners will not be completely comfortable with many items involved in the remodel process.  In the day and age in which we live nobody has to truly go it all alone.  There is a tremendous amount of information from the internet, how-to books or even seminars at the local home improvement store.  The best consumer is always one that is well-informed.

Next week:  What to look for when hiring a contractor.

How to survive a kitchen remodel

allen kitchen photo 4It was about this time last year that we started the preparations for remodeling our kitchen.  Remodeling any room is a messy and inconvenient process, but when the hub of your families existence is torn to shreds, it is important to do some preventative maintenance to preserve your sanity.  First, you need a place to prepare meals.  This was actually my favorite part of the process: being forced to eat and cook outside was some of the best times our family has spent together.  I am not sure why, but when people eat outside together, they tend to take more time and relax and visit  more than eating inside.    So be thinking  about where the best place to set up “camp” for your remodel will be.  When are you most likely to eat together? For us, it is the evening meal.  So planning a space that is shaded in the late afternoon and evening worked the best.  Ability to get hot and cold water to your outside space will save you from bending over and washing dishes in the bathtub.  If you are able to plumb a sink in your outdoor “kitchen”, don’t forget to disconnect the water in the winter!  If you have electricity, invest in an electric skillet, they are surprisingly versatile.   I was given an electric skillet  as a wedding gift that I never used prior to our kitchen remodel.  Last summer, I used it everyday to cook everything from bacon and eggs to pancakes.   I have never been able to make a decent fried egg until last summer when I was cooking outside with the electric skillet.  I will also post a recipe to one our favorite meals of last summer that utilized the electric skillet.

Our kitchen was a major undertaking.  We had to move walls, move and upgrade plumbing and electrical, move the HVAC system on the roof because we wanted to raise the roof (literally). We were without our kitchen from Memorial Day to Labor day and didn’t actually finish until Thanksgiving.  The refrigerator was in the dining room, the microwave was on top of a make shift counter made from plywood and saw horses.  It was definitely challenging at times, but resisting the urge to just “get it done” and making sure that you get exactly what you want will pay off in the long run.  I waited for 10 years to remodel the kitchen, and I wanted to take the time and make sure it was exactly what I wanted.  I wouldn’t change anything.   Even some of the items that I felt a little guilty about the cost last summer are the things that I am thankful for everyday.  The best example of that is the 36″ cutting board that replaced a drawer in one of the base cabinets.  We use it everyday, and it is always convenient.  Even though I love my kitchen, I am looking forward to moving outdoors again for the summer!

Recipe:

Taco Salad

You will need: Hamburger, taco seasoning, corn, kidney beans, iceburg lettuce, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, avocados.

Brown the hamburger, add taco seasoning, corn and kidney beans.

Tear up the lettuce, add shredded cheese, smash the tortilla chips and add to lettuce.

It is best to keep the hot hamburger mix separate until serving so that the lettuce doesn’t wilt.

We use the salsa as the dressing, and avocados add an extra touch.

Enjoy!!

So you think you want to flip a house.

Yes, it is true.  There is money to be made when you flip a house.  Just bear in mind there are significant risks to a newby house flipper.  The price needs to be right, and you must always expect the project to cost more and take longer than you anticipate.  If you do not believe me, watch HGTV.  There are always unforeseen problems which can significantly decrease the profit to be made or cause there to be none at all.   Flipping a house armed with a paint brush and a screwdriver is a recipe for disaster.  It takes at least a minimal knowledge of construction and patience.    Here are a few things we look for when we are looking for a house to flip:

1.  Good neighborhood.  Would you live there?  Are the yards taken care of?  We look for houses in older, well established neighborhoods with minimal traffic.  Ask questions:  Real estate professionals are not always at liberty to be frank about the neighborhood, so if you know someone in law enforcement, they are a good resource to ask.  If you have concerns about the neighborhood, then chances are, so will a potential buyer.

2. Once the house has been fixed, can you still sell it at a price that hits the middle of the market?  Around this area, we shoot to be able to sell a house for just under $200K.  Your chances of reaching the highest number of potential buyers are best if you are in the middle of the market.

3.  Does the floor plan make sense, or can you make it make sense?  Sunken living rooms were popular in the late 70’s, but they just do not make sense, and are very difficult to fix.  Today’s buyer wants an open floor plan that flows all the way around the house.  Opening wallsfrom the kitchen to the living room is almost a given.  Trying to eliminate a long hallway is another thing we do when we are redesigning a house.  A third bedroom and a second bath is always going to be added value when it comes to making a sale.  Also, make sure you can get laundry facilities somewhere inside. Many of todays potential buyers are  not willing to do laundry in a shed, garage  or dark, damp, scary basement.  When designing the living room, you need to be able to visualize where the entertainment center is going to be,  and can adequate seating be arranged to view that area.  Sometimes planning an entertainment center into the floor plan will help  the potential buyer visualize it when they come in the door.    As you can see, changing a floor plan takes a little more construction knowledge and expertise than changing the paint color.  Please be very careful when making a purchase on a “flip” if you do not have the knowledge or know someone with the knowledge ( and have seen their work) to tackle a project of this magnitude.  Anyone can buy a cheap house and paint the walls.

4.  I will reiterate some must haves to compete in today’s housing market:  A minimum of 3 bedroom, 2 baths, laundry room inside the house and a dishwasher in the kitchen. If we can not figure out a way to make these things happen, we will typically walk away.

5.  Be different, but not daring when picking out the finishing touches.  This is my favorite part of the process, but it is also very scary.  Because of fear, many people make the mistake of choosing very “vanilla” choices on the finishes.  I have walked into brand new houses that the carpet was beige, the tile was beige, the walls were beige, the cabinets were a medium brown and the counter tops were some thing else that was completely unappealing and forgettable.  You do not need to stay in the beige box, just make sure that the finished product works together, makes sense and flows throughout the house.    Potential buyers will appreciate the fact that your house looks different, if the finished product is aesthetically pleasing to look at.

These statement are our opinions based on our experience in the Four Corners area.  Other parts of the country will have different clientele with differing demands.  The purpose of the blog is to save people money and heartache by identifying potential pitfalls.  We hope you enjoyed reading this and it was informative.  Below are some pictures of projects that are outside the “beige box”.

Hello world!

I have been wanting to start a blog for quite some time.  We have vast experience with just about anything that can be done to a piece of property.  We bought a piece of property for $27,000, and after an extensive remodel sold it for $169,000 to the first person that walked through the door.  We have built houses from the ground up, and done a complete scrape and rebuild on others.  We are responsible for managing  and maintaining 87 rentals.   Russ is a great resource for home improvements and general maintenance, and through this blog, I hope to be able to share is knowledge and insight.  Next blog will be “10 ways to destroy your home!!”   Thanks for checking us out.