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June 2016: Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Ask The Inspector

Q. I’m a relatively new home owner, and I know there are seasonal jobs I should be doing around my house, but I’m still figuring out what I need to do and when. What should I do during the summer months? Do you have any kind of checklist I can follow?

A. Of course we do! Your NPI home inspector can provide you with a printed copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide. Call or email your inspector if you’d like one. We also have assembled a handy summer home maintenance checklist that should help you:

Ask The Inspector

Indoor Maintenance
With the warm summer weather, there’s not much to do indoors. First, check the operation of any attic fans and roof-mounted turbine vents. If these are not operating properly, contact a roofing contractor to make repairs. Next, move on to the basement or crawl space and check for dampness and/or leaking. If you discover leaks or moisture, contact a basement professional to determine the source and remedy.

Structural Maintenance
There are several maintenance items you should do around the house to protect your home’s structure. Since water is your No. 1 enemy, you should caulk exterior joints around windows and doors. This will prevent water intrusion, and it will reduce or eliminate drafts, so you’ll save energy. Another job you’ll want to tackle to prevent water intrusion is to clean the gutters and downspouts on your house and garage. Properly draining gutters and downspouts work to keep water away from the house’s foundation, preventing water intrusion.

Summer is also a great time to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. Do this before the fall, as there’s plenty of time for repairs and you’ll have an easier time scheduling appointments.

Clean and seal your deck, which will require three sunny days. Click here for a step-by-step guide. You should also check the deck for loose boards and railings and make the necessary repairs to avoid falls or injuries.

Finally, inspect your house for signs of termite infestation if they are prevalent in your area. If you see signs of these pests, call an exterminator pronto to prevent damage to the structure of your home.

Yard Work
If you didn’t check for overhanging tree limbs in the spring, check your trees and trim them if needed. Take a walk around your house and check the grading to assure that water drains away from your home’s foundation.

Give Your Siding Some TLC
The siding on your house probably needs some attention. First, remove any vines growing on the house, siding, brick or mortar. Then, wash the siding using an ordinary garden hose and a mild detergent, and take the opportunity to clean the exterior of the windows. Be careful if using a pressure washer, as it can damage the siding or force water under siding, encouraging mildew and rot. While washing the siding, check for cracks or damage and repair them to prevent moisture and pests from intruding. And, if your siding is peeling and needs to be refreshed, summer is a great time to paint it.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Clear leaves and other debris away from your outdoor air-conditioning unit. After you clear the debris, disconnect the unit and use your garden hose to wash off the fins on the outside. Sometime during early summer, you should have your air conditioning unit professionally checked and serviced to ensure proper cooling during the hot summer months.

Light Cleaning and Maintenance

Take a little walk around the house and do these easy tasks:

  • Clean your dryer vent.
  • If you didn’t do it in the spring, then it’s time to de-winterize your sprinkler system.
  • Check exterior faucets and hoses for leaks, which can really add to your water bill.
  • Clean the porch and patio. Give them a good sweeping and washing. Repaint the porch if you have cracked or chipped paint.

Garage and Driveway
Fair weather gives you the opportunity to clean out and organize your garage. Properly dispose of any hazardous materials, such as paints and solvents. Check for evidence of termites. You should also inspect your driveway and walkways for cracks and holes. If you have damage in these areas, call a professional to repair them.

Be Advised

Staging Your Home Can Help It Sell Faster

Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

Be Advised

A home stager is a designer or artist who specializes in highlighting a home’s assets for prospective buyers. Barb Schwarz, president of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, said, “Staging is preparing a home for sale so the buyer can mentally move in.”

In recent years, studies have shown that staged homes sell faster, and for this reason, many real estate agents bring in a stager before listing a house. A survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. found that staged homes are typically on the market half the time as non-staged homes and sold for more than 6 percent above the asking price. Furthermore, a National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey found that the average staging investment is between 1 and 3 percent of the home’s asking price and generates a return on investment of 8 to 10 percent.

Sellers can choose several levels of staging services to fit their budgets. The least expensive option is a walk-through consultation. The stager will offer advice on how to best present the home. At the next level, the designer will de-clutter and reposition existing furniture in the home. Stagers can also be hired to completely redecorate a room, from painting to bringing in furniture. This is the highest cost option.

A staging professional should be objective, working to make your home look good to buyers. Always check the stager’s experience and references — you may even ask to tour a property the company is currently staging — and read the contract carefully.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

You don’t have to be a home inspector to spot the problem with this garage door — or should we say doors? This home owner assembled two bi-folding closet doors in place of a standard garage door. These doors aren’t necessarily against housing code, but they won’t open automatically, and they probably aren’t very secure.

Noteworthy News

Keep Your Home Safe While You’re on Vacation

Summer is a great time for family vacations. It’s also a prime time for burglars to steal your valuables unless you remember to protect your home when you are away.

Noteworthy News

  • Stop your mail, including newspapers. The post office will provide you with a form to complete for temporarily stopping your mail.
  • Lock all windows and doors.
  • Trim bushes and other plantings below the windowsills. This reduces the hiding places available to criminals.
  • Install automatic garage door openers with rolling access code technology. This technology automatically changes the code after each use, preventing thieves from using a universal remote to steal the access code.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to check on your home, mow the grass if necessary and take out the trash. Give that person a phone number to reach you in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t announce that you’re on vacation on social media. Avoid posting your current location and vacation photos. Burglars can see these posts and easily find your address.

Maintenance Matters

Aluminum Versus Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is popular because it’s inexpensive and low-maintenance, but aluminum siding is making a comeback. Which is right for your house?

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

Aluminum siding was introduced followed World War II as maintenance-free alternatives to wood. It lived up to its claims, with a few exceptions: First, the thin layer of paint baked on the outside tends to fade, chalk or chip. Nowadays, however, home owners can repaint their aluminum siding. Another problem with aluminum siding is that it dents when hit by a projectile (such as large hail), and it can be a challenge to repair in small sections because it comes in boards, sheets or panels. Additionally, aluminum siding conducts electricity, so some jurisdictions require grounding it for safety reasons.

Since the late 1970s, vinyl, a plastic material, has stolen most of the market share once won by aluminum. Vinyl siding is inexpensive, and it’s a solid color all the way through, so it doesn’t require repainting. Although it comes in boards, which may crack or puncture if hit by a projectile, individual boards of vinyl siding can be replaced without much trouble.

Both aluminum and vinyl siding are nailed in place along the top of each section. The bottom overlaps the piece below to prevent water intrusion. Metal and vinyl siding must have enough give to allow for expansion and contraction with changing temperatures.

Did You Know?

Dirty Secrets

Slope, or geography, isn’t the only factor in determining whether or not water properly flows away from the foundation and walls of your home. Soil type, location and surface absorption rate also play a role.

For example, soils with high clay content absorb water more slowly. Soils with higher sand content allow water to absorb and percolate through the ground faster. Concrete and asphalt are impervious surfaces, so instead of soaking in, water flows over or around these materials. This can cause problems if your driveway runs next to your house and isn’t sloped correctly. If not diverted, water will work its way under the driveway at the seam and eventually into the basement or foundation.

Sandy-soiled areas may carry water away from the foundation fast enough to avoid absorption into the foundation or walls even with improper slope.

It’s important to take a walk around your house and garage often enough to know when pooling begins. Consider appropriate maintenance steps or repairs to prevent water from causing problems.

From Our Blog

The Top 5 Things Sellers Should Do to Prepare for the Home Inspection

When you’re selling your home, preparing everything for the home inspection can prevent unnecessary delays during the closing process. For liability reasons, home inspectors won’t move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. If you don’t provide access to these areas during the inspection, it can lead to incomplete results, callbacks, additional fees or a frustrated buyer. Here are five tips to help you along.

Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

Monthly Trivia Question

What does the term PITI mean in real estate?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

How to Sell Your Home

When selling your home in a buyer’s market, getting an edge over the competition is important. The following tips may help you sell your home faster without having to compromise on price.

How to Sell Your Home

Perform Routine Maintenance

Exceed a buyer’s expectations from the beginning. Change your furnace filter. Replace burned-out light bulbs. Make sure hand and guardrails are securely mounted to prevent falls. Trim bushes and rake up leaves. Cut out dead foliage. All of these things will help reinforce the value of your home.
Research a Realtor or Agent

Interview more than one real estate agent. Consider the cost of services, length of contract and services offered to help you sell your home. Check references and associations if possible. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Envision Your Property Objectively

You’ve worked hard to make your house your home, but now you want someone else to see your house as their home. Chances are, their opinions regarding decorating, furnishings and the amazing beauty of your 3-year-old’s art on the refrigerator don’t run parallel to yours. To show off your home to its best advantage, buyers must be able to see themselves in your home. Make it easy for them by taking your Realtor’s suggestions regarding clutter, paint colors and cleanliness to provide a clean slate for the next owners.

Limit Clutter

Stacks of papers, 40 pieces of a pottery collection stacked on a shelf, walls of family pictures and clothes baskets on the floor make rooms feel smaller. Of course, clutter is part of everyday life, but it usually isn’t part of “selling.” Enter a retail store and certain items are highlighted. Clothes are stacked with like items and in order of size. All of this is an attempt to attract a buyer.
To prepare your house for sale, remove all but a few pieces of a collection. Group odd numbers of decorative items. Vary the height of objects to add interest. Leave space on walls and refrigerators for potential buyers to imagine their own pictures in place.

The Home Inspection

Home inspections aren’t just for buyers. A prelisting inspection gives sellers the nuts and bolts details about the condition and functionality of hundreds of components within the home. The written report is a manual to use in completing inexpensive maintenance repairs and evidence of the efforts you’ve made to keep your home well-maintained to help build buyer confidence and trust. This can be the edge your home needs to sell quickly.

Scent of Cookies

Our sense of smell is directly related to the emotions we feel. That’s why the scent of fresh-baked cookies can make a house feel like a home. To save some time and money, you might try freezing a batch of your favorite drop cookies. Make the batter and drop cookies on a cookie sheet as usual and freeze solid. Once the dough is frozen, transfer the cookie dough to freezer-safe containers. Thaw for about 25 to 35 minutes and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets right before potential buyers arrive. Throw the parchment away to prevent a mess on your pans or in the sink.

Touch up Paint

Fresh paint is a fast easy way to update your home at any time. Consider toning down bright colors with neutrals and touching up trim and garage doors.

Increase Curb Appeal

First impressions are essential. Brighten up the exterior of the home with seasonal plants or decorations. Keep walkways and driveways clean and clear of trip hazards. Trim back bushes and other foliage that blocks the front door or porch.

Network

Your real estate agent will advertise your home. It’s all in their job. Still, it doesn’t hurt to use your own network as well. Tell family, friends and co-workers that you will be moving. You never know when someone you know might be in touch with the perfect buyer.

Get it Clean

If you do nothing else to prepare your home for sale, clean from top to bottom. Keep the lawn tidy and mowed if necessary, shovel walks in the winter, and wash your windows to allow natural light to show off your home to its best advantage. Keep bathrooms and showers sparkling. If you have small children, consider investing in some baskets with lids. Place one in each room for quick pickup of the day’s toys.

Disclosure Document Truths

Seller disclosures vary from state to state. In the current real estate market, it is tempting for sellers to omit details in their disclosure documents.

Seller disclosures vary from state to state, but generally list material problems with the home, including structural problems, electrical problems, roof leaks, etc. However; in the current real estate market, it may be tempting for sellers to omit details in the disclosure documents in order to close the deal. This makes it important for buyers to not solely rely on the disclosures and to do their homework first before purchasing a property.

Although sellers are expected to fill out disclosure documents honestly and not conceal issues with the home, what isn’t disclosed could cost the buyer later. And even more difficult would be finding proof that the seller had knowledge of the issue and chose to not disclose it.

Buyers: To avoid pitfalls, catch any issues before buying with the help of a professional home inspection. An inspector will document any notable defects of the home, providing proof for you to show the seller. Buyers should also speak with neighbors to receive additional information regarding the home’s history and other details.

No home is perfect, so buyers should set realistic expectations before purchasing an existing home. However; knowing all of the truths regarding the property can help to set the buyer’s mind at ease before making a decision.

For more information, read Amy Hoak’s “Don’t Fall Victim to a Lying Home Seller.”

 

Preparing Your Home for Sale

A little preparation in a tight market can go a long way to selling your home quickly at the price you want. The following survey can help you pinpoint preparations you may have overlooked.

Preparing Your Home for Sale