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Got home improvement fever?

  • By proadAccountId-377600
  • 15 May, 2018

One of the best parts of being a homeowner is the freedom to customize your space. From painting the walls to knocking them down, there are endless opportunities to put your own personal stamp on your home and make it yours. But before you dive into any renovations, you should know what they will cost you and how much of those costs you can expect to get back through appreciation when you sell.

To help make this easier for you, we looked to the latest Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) to compile a list of the top three home improvement projects with the highest cost recovery for both inside and outside your home. Whether you're considering buying a fixer-upper or want to make updates to your current home, here are the projects that will get you the biggest bang for your buck.


Hardwood Flooring Refinish — 100% Cost Recovery

If you have old wooden floors that are dinged up or hiding under carpet, a hardwood flooring refinish can completely revitalize your space at an affordable price. The project costs around $3,000, and not only are you likely to recoup all of your costs at resale, but it also can help cinch the deal with prospective buyers. If your old wooden floors are beyond repair or it's just time for something new, brand new wood flooring is a good backup option with an estimated $5,500 price tag and a 91% cost recovery.

Insulation Upgrade — 76% Cost Recovery

Energy efficiency is all the rage these days, and for good reason. While a lot less glamorous than shiny new floors, an insulation upgrade is another worthwhile project. Not only will you recover about three-fourths of your costs when you sell (estimating a $2,100 investment), but think of the additional energy savings you'll gain from having a better insulated home. According to the EPA, homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs simply by sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. It just makes sense.

HVAC Replacement — 67% Cost Recovery

Waiting until your furnace or AC unit completely conks out is never a good idea. If your HVAC system is struggling to keep up with Mother Nature (or if it's more than 10 years old), it's probably time to upgrade. The project can run you about $7,475, which is a hefty sum, so be sure to have a professional do an energy assessment on your home to determine what your needs are. As you're weighing out which system to purchase, look for high-efficiency ENERGY STAR units, as they'll reduce your energy consumption and can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115.


New Roof — 109% Cost Recovery

And the holy grail of home upgrades is ... a new roof. With an estimated price tag of $7,500, you're likely to make back all of your costs when you sell — and then some. A new roofing system has so many benefits. It helps with energy efficiency, reduces costs, improves comfort levels (preventing your heat or AC from escaping), and lessens the chance of water damage (no one wants a leaky roof!). Plus, it instantly boosts your curb appeal and adds value to your home. This project is a smart one for both homeowners who are planning to stay put for a while and those who are looking to sell soon.

New Garage Door — 87% Cost Recovery

While probably not at the top of your to-do list, a new garage door makes for a simple — yet smart — home improvement. Think improved functionality and enhanced curb appeal and aesthetics. It will set you back about $2,300 up front, but you'll get most of that back with an 87% cost recovery. Plus, if you're still dealing with a manual garage door, it's time to stop living in the past and upgrade to automatic. While you're at it, bring your garage into the future by opting for a smart door, which allows you to open and close your door right from your phone.

New Fiber-Cement Siding — 83% Cost Recovery

Durable and long-lasting, fiber-cement siding can completely transform the exterior of your house. While more expensive than its cheaper counterpart, vinyl, it is fire-resistant, moisture resistant, and insect- and rodent-resistant, and because it's a thicker material, it can be texturized to resemble wood. Even with a relatively high cost recovery of 83%, installing new siding is no small undertaking; it will cost you around $18,000, according to the report. Still, if you're flipping a house or your home is in desperate need of a new exterior, this could be a good option.

Now that we've covered the most cost-effective projects, you've probably noticed that some of the more popular ones — like kitchen and bathroom renos — are missing. That's because they're the least economical. That doesn't mean you should avoid them, but as they say, knowledge is power. With that, here are the projects homeowners tend to tackle first and the amount you can expect to recoup from each when you sell:

  • Bathroom Renovation/New Bathroom — 50%
  • New Master Suite — 52%
  • Kitchen Upgrade — 57%
By proadAccountId-377600 27 Jan, 2017
Patrick Clark

January 10, 2017, 9:01 PM PST January 11, 2017, 8:07 AM PST

Spending months to find the perfect home in your price range, only to have your mortgage application rejected, or a home inspection turn up expensive repairs, is a nightmare—one that is coming true with increasing frequency, according to a new report  from real estate listings website Trulia.

A Trulia analysis of U.S. listings shows that 3.9 percent of homes that moved from for-sale to pending moved back to for-sale again, nearly double the rate in 2015. Such “failed sales” increased in 96 of the 100 biggest U.S. metros, with big swings in areas large and small, rich and poor. That includes Los Angeles and Charleston, S.C., as well as San Jose and Akron, Ohio.

In Ventura County, Calif., where the median home value is $548,000, 11.6 percent of prospective sales failed to close in 2016. That’s the highest in the U.S., up from 3.1 percent in 2015. Tucson, where the median home price is $176,000, had the second-highest rate of failed sales, at 10.8 percent, up from 3.5 percent the year before.

The problem of failed sales has been most acute for cheaper homes and older ones: Some 6.3 percent of sales of starter homes fell through last year, according to Trulia’s analysis, compared with 3.6 percent of so-called premium home sales. Homes built in the 1960s had the highest fail rates, while sales of newer and older houses were more likely to go through.

Trulia’s data don’t explain why listings reverted from pending to for-sale, but broadly speaking, a few factors can reliably torpedo a deal:

The buyer’s mortgage doesn’t come through.

This can happen even for buyers who have been prequalified, especially when a buyer has to stretch to outbid rival house hunters. It’s worth noting that borrowers are having an easier time getting mortgages: 77 percent of purchase mortgages made it to closing in October, according to mortgage software company Ellie Mae, the highest percentage since 2012.

A home appraiser values the home below the sales price.

Low appraisals are more common in hot markets, where buyers bid up prices beyond what appraisers think homes are worth. But there were plenty of hot markets in 2015, when the fail rate was lower, so it's not obvious why low appraisals are responsible for increased failed sales. Navigating the appraisal process has been an issue for buyers since reforms passed in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, said Robert Gleason, chief executive officer of the Greater Forth Worth Realtors Association. “Any area you have a hot market is going to be a concern,” he said. “Prices have gone up quite a bit, and it can take a while for appraisals to catch up.”

Defects discovered in home inspections give a buyer reason to walk away.

A house that needs expensive repairs to fix a cracked foundation, say, or a faulty roof, may stop looking like a good value. That helps explain why sales of older homes are more likely to fall through.

As to why these things might be throwing a wrench into more sales than before, Felipe Chacón, a data analyst at Trulia, said an increase in first-time  homebuyers could offer a plausible explanation. Inventory shortages in many U.S. markets have been most acute for the entry-level homes first-time buyers usually seek. Those buyers can face greater scrutiny from mortgage lenders, Chacón said.

Trulia’s data only go back two years, so they don’t indicate what rate is historically normal. Lyle Elliott, branch manager for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices office in Ventura, Calif., didn’t think his metropolitan area’s fail rate of 11.6 percent was particularly surprising. “We’ve had a robust year,” he said. “When you have more sales, you also have more sales that don’t complete.”

By proadAccountId-377600 19 Oct, 2016
Most roofs have flashings underneath the tiles or roofing system that collect water and carry it down to the rain gutters below. Over the past few weeks we've seen falling leaves and higher winds, fueling the buildup of leaves, dirt and even bird droppings . As debris falls onto the roof and works its way underneath the tiles, it breaks down into smaller particles in the chimney, valley and sidewall flashings and creates a blockade . This often happens over the course of a few years, and isn't noticeable with a visual inspection .Now, with the rain coming down, these natural dams on your roof are holding unseen reservoirs of water that eventually spill off the sides of the flashings and onto the felt underlayment and wood deck underneath the tiles. This compromises the strength of your roof and sets the stage for major leaks  in the future. Sometimes, these leaks have already been happening for years, causing damage to the wood sheathing and walls before the owner sees any evidence of leakage  in the home.
By proadAccountId-377600 15 May, 2018

The idea of buying a home without having it inspected by a professional home inspector first seems almost unthinkable, but there also are many reasons for a seller to have an inspection before putting a home on the market. The increase in demand for pre-inspections can only be a win for home inspectors.

In the article “ The trend of inspecting your home before you sell is catching on in Utah ” by Rodger L. Hardy on, Massachusetts realtor and blogger Bill Gassett listed seven benefits of having a home inspected before being sold.

According to Gassett, pre-inspections:

1.   Reduce the stress of selling a home — An inspection will tell the seller what needs to be done to make the home more sellable.

2.   Help with pricing the home correctly — Buyers won’t be able to so easily attack the price of the home.

3.   Speed up the sales process —  Any issues found during the pre-inspection can be taken care of in advance.

4.   Allow you to make repairs —A home that is free of problems is a great marketing tool.

5.   Avoid the need for renegotiation —A buyer’s inspection that finds major problems can kill a carefully crafted offer.

6.   Help improve buyer confidence — The last thing you want to do when selling a home is create doubt about its integrity.

7.   You make your agent’s job much easier — Pricing and negotiating the sale of the home are more difficult when repair issues come to light.

"Once the pre-inspection is completed, the listing agent and their client can then sit down and prioritize the repairs that must be done in order to ensure a smooth sale," Chad Taylor of Taylor-Made Real Estate Service in Kansas wrote in the article, “ Your Home: Pre-inspections – best money a seller can spend ."

Taylor also noted that when repairs are made from a pre-inspection, the home can then be marketed as having been pre-inspected, which helps defend the listing price of the home.

According to Taylor, other benefits of a pre-inspection include:

• Higher bids for the home — Buyers tend to bid the price up more aggressively.
• Fewer surprises — You don’t want a buyer surprised by an unexpected defect in the home.
• As is: two very sweet words to a seller’s ears — In many cases, a buyer will accept a pre-inspected home as is.
• Good faith — A pre-inspection starts the buyer/seller relationship off on a good note.
• Limited opportunity for recourse — A pre-inspection disclosed to the buyer before contract helps protect the seller in the event something fails on the home after the sale.

As pre-inspections become more population among sellers, it may be a good idea for home inspectors to include information and rates about pre-inspections in their business's marketing plans.


-      Courtesy of AHIT

By proadAccountId-377600 01 Aug, 2016

Dean Alm started his business, Napa Valley Home Inspections, in 2008 — right as the recession was taking hold on the economy.

“It was tough breaking in,” Alm admitted. But with persistence, he was able to survive the economic downturn.

Today he has a successful business offering “my lifetime of property experience to help people with their real estate transactions.”

What’s a common misconception you get about your industry?

People have a tendency to look for the cheapest home inspector and that’s a bad idea.

Do you have any tips for those who need an inspection?

Do your homework. This is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make in your life. You have a right and responsibility to know what you bought. Happy homes require a smart start. That’s corny but it sums it up.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and urban design and development. I also spent eight tough years as a Realtor in the ’80s after college, before home inspectors were common.

What was your first job?

My first real job was as a welders helper on a pipeline at age 14 in Alberta, Canada. I made enough that summer to buy my first car, an orange VW bug.

What was your childhood ambition?

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I was going to be an architect.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?

Getting Realtors to understand that I simply report what I see, it’s not positive or negative, it just is what it is. Now that they have the information they can guide their clients (to negotiate) effectively. Every home has issues. Clients have a right and a responsibility to know the true condition of the home before they move in.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?

I’d like to limit the number of crawl spaces I visit every week. Delegating that task is hard to do when my reputation is on the line.

Who do you most admire in the business world?

My father was a farm kid from the prairies, the youngest son of a Swedish immigrant lumberjack who died at 92 in 1972. Both of these men made a real contribution to the advancement of our family and their communities. I have the utmost respect and admiration of both of these humble, honest men for their victories and their vices.

What’s on your to-do list?

I have a solar business in the wings.

Which other Napa County business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for …”?

Pat Sweeney, Silver Auto Service.

Cyndi Gates, Gates Estates Realty.

By proadAccountId-377600 10 Jun, 2016

Those buying a condo may think that they are in the clear when it comes to needing a home inspection. But that's not necessarily so, according to Stephen Moranis, former president of the Toronto Real Estate Board and a former Director of the Canadian Real Estate Association.

"Things go wrong with condos, too, which is why I have advised on countless occasions that condo buyers get what potential home owners almost always get: a professional inspector ," Moranis wrote in " Do you need a home inspection when you buy a condo?"

"The status certificate on the general state of the condo and condominium corporation isn’t enough: an inspection gives added legal, financial and emotional security and cannot be more emphatically recommended," he added.

Moranis, who has been active on the North American real estate scene for more than 40 years, suggested condo buyers and their home inspectors look for several potential issues. They included:

• Check for spotting on floors and walls, floors that are sloped or warped or loose carpets and tiles. All of these are signs of water damage.

• Cracked walls, which could suggest a structural problem.

• Spotting on walls and windows may indicate mold in the unit.

• There should be no cracks in glass panes, screens should work and cabinetry drawers and doors should be level, open and close easily and fully operational.

• Look for gaps or missing caulking in all of the tile work.

• Check the exterior and common areas of the building to see what maintenance has been done by the building’s ownership.

• Ensure there is enough water pressure with both hot and cold taps, and that all drains are working well.

• If you notice any foul smells in the unit, trust your instincts. Can the source be identified? Is the unit properly ducted and vented?

• Make sure the electrical systems and HVAC systems work. If there is an HVAC in the unit in addition to a central building system unit, have both inspected. Ask if and when the HVAC filters were changed last and the ducts cleaned.

• Ask if there has been a technical audit of the building to determine the actual condition of the building.

• Read the condo corporation minutes from the last few years to check for signs of exterior and maintenance problems. Look for evidence of major structural repairs and their cost. This is important because you are buying into the structure, Moranis noted.

"Remember, you will be liable for repairs once you become a partial owner of the condominium corporation," he wrote.

By proadAccountId-377600 01 Jun, 2016

Whether a home inspector has to be licensed or abide by specific regulations to practice varies by state. Some states have no professional requirements for home inspectors.

What does the inconsistency in licensing and regulations among states mean for the home inspection industry and consumers? AHIT's Home Inspector Blog asked a few experts to weigh in.

Licensing environment

Frank Lesh, executive director, American Society of Home Inspectors, said states’ regulation of the industry has been at somewhat of standstill.

“Currently, approximately 35 states require some form of home inspector regulation," Lesh said. "Regulation includes everything from full blown licensing, as well as just registering as a business doing home inspections,” said Lesh, who served as ASHI’s president in 2007. “It’s difficult to predict if more states will move in that direction. There was a large trend in that direction years ago, but it has slowed down.”

Chris Chirafisi, technical training manager, American Home Inspectors Training Institute, and a licensed home inspector in Wisconsin, Kentucky and Florida, said very few states are introducing licensing and agreed that the push has waned.

Frank Lesh

“Vermont recently introduced licensing and Virginia has licensing going into effect July 2017,” Chirafisi said. “But there has been very slow movement for states to actually adopt licensing/regulations in recent years.”

Lesh, founder of the Home Sweet Home Inspection Company, Indian Head Park, Ill., said licensing sets a minimum standard of compliance with the law, but the key word there is “minimum.”

“Unfortunately, consumers have the expectation that because a license is necessary, then all inspectors are the same,” Lesh said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The analogy I like to use is most barbers and hair dressers are licensed, but consumers can still get a bad haircut.”

Not all home inspectors agree, however. Brendan Ryan, president of the Pennsylvania Home Inspectors Coalition, said the state law in Pennsylvania is more like a trade act, and it’s pretty much self-enforcing. But that could change. There’s a bill in the legislature to incorporate the trade act into state law — a licensing law, which would include the formation of an oversight board and entry licensing for home inspectors.

Ryan, who has been a home inspector for 26 years and is president of CSA Home Inspection, is pro licensing.

“The reason that I am for it is that it does create a specific bar that must be achieved for proficiency, whereas with the current trade law or no licensing, there is no true basic standard for proficiency and consumer protection,” Ryan said. “In states where there is no licensing, there will be lack of people getting the education to stay abreast of any new system components in homes or in a unique situation that may occur. Continuing education is a major part of our profession. Without licensing, there are no educational requirements, no testing requirements. There are no requirements for carrying insurance.”

“Unfortunately, consumers have the expectation that because a license is necessary, then all inspectors are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. The analogy I like to use is most barbers and hair dressers are licensed, but consumers can still get a bad haircut.” Frank Lesh

Licensing’s limits

According to Kevin O’Malley, author of the industry text “Marketing and Operating a Successful Home Inspection Business,” and co-founder of, licensing, itself, means little but the demonstration of minimal proficiency.

Whether a state requires licensing or not, “cream rises," he said. "Some people have ethics and integrity and some don’t. I don’t believe licensing requires any of those things,” said O’Malley, who also is chief managing officer of Warrantee Management, LLC.

Licensing is a good start, according to Chirafisi, but a big part of licensing depends on what the state actually requires to obtain the license.

Chris Chirafisi

“Some states only require you to pass an exam and then they grant you a license, which is really ridiculous,” Chirafisi said. “Other states require you to complete a certain amount of educational hours that pertain to home inspection, pass the National Home Inspectors Exam and complete a certain amount of ride-along inspections with a licensed inspector. That is a much better way to make sure that home inspectors are being professionally trained and getting that important hands on experience.”

Home inspection is not a get-rich-quick scheme; it takes hard work and time, he said.

“I think these states that don’t have at least minimum requirements are doing a disservice to the residents and consumers who are purchasing a home,” Chirafisi said. “Just because someone has been in the trades or in one specific trade does not qualify them to perform home inspections. For example you may have an HVAC tech that is an expert in that particular field (heating and cooling), but what do they know about the structure of the home or the electrical system? A professionally trained qualified inspector will know about all the different systems of the home inside and out.”

Licensing often starts with a reasonable goal of “making sure inspectors are qualified,” but states typically don’t have the ability to adjust the profession to changing conditions, Lesh said.

“For example, when ASHI decided to include inspecting appliances, we did it. Trying to get the government to change something is much more difficult,” Lesh said.

Beyond licensing

In states that require licensing, the tendency is for consumers to lump home inspectors into the same group, rather than according to individual credentials, Lesh said.

Licensing doesn’t separate the most from the least knowledgeable inspectors. Rather, organizations like ASHI do that, he said.

“ASHI has built its reputation on 40 years of trust and its third-party certification, which separates ASHI from any other home inspection organization,” Lesh said.

The best thing inspectors can do to further their careers is get involved with a professional organization like ASHI that is certified by an outside credentialing agency, Lesh said.

In unregulated (and even regulated) states, the best thing that home inspectors can do is to get professionally trained, Chirafisi said.

“A well-rounded home inspector not only has technical knowledge but also has excellent communication and people skills,” Chirafisi said. “My advice is to attend one of our live training courses where we take you out on actual home inspections, so you get familiar with the inspection process and get to see different inspection scenarios. And for the individuals that are looking to start their own business, we include, as part of the training, business and marketing development.”

By proadAccountId-377600 31 May, 2016

Buyers can do a preliminary check of a home before putting in a bid, but nothing takes the place of a professional home inspection, according to an article in the Tri-County (Mich.) Times. In the article, staff reporter Vera Hogan wrote that making the home inspection a condition of the sale is a smart move.

"When choosing a home inspector or home inspection company, buyers should do a little homework. Ask for referrals from friends and family," Hogan wrote in the article. "Real estate firms often have a concierge desk or table with the business cards of home inspectors that do work in the local area."

Similar to other states, home inspectors in Michigan do not have to be licensed, so Hogan recommends buyers look for home inspectors who are members of the National Association of Home Inspectors .

Hogan's husband, Mike, a former professional home inspector, said both buyers and sellers should be aware of what a home inspection entails.

"Home inspectors almost always work for buyers so it is important for sellers to remember a few things before the inspection appointment," Mike Hogan said in the article.

He provided some key points for sellers to remember when preparing their home for sale:

• Keep the attic and basement accessible.The attic and basement are important areas to be inspected, and home inspectors need to get to them.

• Empty the bathtub.People often use a bathtub to store toys and laundry, Mike Hogan said in the article. Make sure all items are removed prior to the home inspector's arrival. "Home inspectors need to fill each bathtub in the home as part of the plumbing inspection ," Vera Hogan wrote.

• Be prepared to hire a repairman.Sellers sometimes mistakenly believe the home inspector will repair any defects found during the inspection.

“We only point out that there is a problem, we don’t fix it,” Mike Hogan said in the article. “We don’t require them to fix it either. Whether it gets fixed or not and who pays for the repair is usually negotiated between the buyer and seller, with the help of their agent."


By lemaster 14 Mar, 2016
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -Police say a California doctor apparently tried to get into the home of the man she had been dating by sliding down the chimney. Her decomposing body was found there days later.

Police Sgt. Mary DeGeare says investigators do not suspect foul play in the death of Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac.

Authorities say the 49-year-old apparently climbed on the roof Wednesday night, removed the chimney cap and slid feet first down the flue after unsuccessfully trying to get into the house other ways.

DeGeare says the man whom Kotarac was pursuing had left the home unnoticed to avoid a confrontation.
The body went undiscovered for several days until someone noticed odors coming from the fireplace.
Firefighters dismantled the chimney Saturday to remove the body.
By lemaster 14 Mar, 2016
Surgeon General Health Advisory

“Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques.”
January 2005

I have issues with the testing for Radon in homes here in Napa. The test is designed to be done with windows and doors closed over a 2-day period so the tester has time to collect a sample. Great if you plan to leave town for the weekend but not realistic overall. A 2-day test will tell you little in an environment where we deal with seismic occurrences from time to time. 

Radon is radioactive gas given off by soils and rock below your home. Yes it's there and it always has been, we survived somehow but it is estimated over 20,000 deaths in America are due to Radon gas poisoning, scary if you put it that way. 
you could do a long-term, 90-day test, only to have issues come up after the next little jolt. 

Proper ventilation is the only real solution, one more reason to ensure your home is properly ventilated. Crawl spaces and attics can be power vented with solar with little or no cost to you over a 3 to 5 years term. The upfront costs can be offset my some incentives and tax breaks but we are talking a small entry level system that will cost about $2,000.00 plus installation. 

If you have a crawl space that's where most of your indoor air is coming from, if it's wet you are exposing your family to mold and other potentially hazardous contaminants. Proper ventilation is the biggest issue I see here in the bay area. My little solar solution is looking for homes to run a test market on so give me a call and we can talk. 707-260-5524
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