6 Low-Cost Steps to an Organized Kitchen

RISMedia| Andrea Davis| March 11, 2015| Link

Keeping your kitchen organized is essential to cooking and a good room aesthetic. If your kitchen is disorganized, you’re likely scrambling to find what you need when you cook. That’s never good, and it’s completely unnecessary, too. There are various quick, low-cost ways to organize your kitchen and make it suitable to your needs. Here are some ideas to consider:

#1 Affordable storage options

If you need to organize drawers, shelves, pantry space or under cabinet areas, there are various options available to you. Some of those options include:

  • Baskets or trays made of plastic
  • Wire baskets that hang over or mount to a door
  • Hooks
  • Drawer dividers

Square organizers waste space and should be used only when necessary. Shallow bins are particularly helpful in drawers because of their volume, and installing clear organizers makes it easier to see what you’re looking for.

#2 Cabinet solutions

Your cabinets store a lot of items — plates, bowls, cups, pots and pans — which means you need to optimize space. There are various options available that won’t require you to pull out your cabinets and spend a fortune starting over. Some of those include:

  • Helper shelves – These fit between shelves to increase usable space in your cabinets.
  • Stepped shelves – These help you view what’s potentially hidden in the back of deep cabinets.
  • Under shelf racks and baskets – These are good for storing small items and slide in and out easily.
  • Over the door organizers – These come in the form of trays, baskets, towel bars or bag holders, which may be hooked onto the door for quick organization.


#3 Hang a pot rack

If you have a lot of pots and pans, you’re likely running out of space in your cabinets for them. Instead of trying to push everything to fit in a cramped space, you can hire a handyman to hang a handrail and some S-hooks for your cookware. Handrails support a lot of weight and S hooks are good for a wide variety of pot and pan handles. You can also buy a pot rack from a home improvement store and have it professionally installed in the ceiling. This is a really good idea if you have a breakfast bar or butcher block in the center of your kitchen. It cuts down the chances of you hitting your head on the pots and pans.

#4 Pantry organization ideas

Your pantry holds a lot of essential cooking items — spices, sugar, flour, liquids and so on — and this area tends to get cluttered. To smartly organize this space, you should utilize the door. You can use chalkboard paint to keep a shopping list, or you could hang hooks or pocket organizers for storing bigger items. There’s also the option of putting a spice rack in the pantry for organizing all of those cooking essentials. Some other organization options include:

  • Rolling kitchen carts
  • Slide-out shelves
  • Baskets and containers

#5 Organize the sink cabinet.

It would be great to utilize your under-sink storage space, but you don’t want it to get cluttered with cleaning items and linens. You can hang hooks inside the sink cabinet door to hang your gloves and some linens. You can also place a tray at the bottom of the cabinet to store cleaning supplies in an organized fashion. It’s quick and efficient — and it keeps your cabinet space clean.

#6 Plywood panel solution

Sometimes you have long cookie sheets, pizza pans and other flat cookware that doesn’t fit right in your cabinets. While you have some space underneath the oven for these items, it might not be enough. So, you need to utilize other space options, which is where plywood panels come in. By removing the lower shelf of your cabinet, you can use a plywood panel that you stand up vertically and brace with wood glue. Then you can slip in tall pans easily without them leaning against other items in the cabinet. You might need the help of a carpenter to properly size the plywood panels or drill the appropriate holes for the braces.


Thinking of Buying a Home? Start Saving Now


US News & World Report| March 24, 2015| Kira Brecht| Link

They say your home is your castle. If you’ve been renting your castle and dreaming of owning a home, you aren’t alone. Homeownership rates have tumbled to a 20-year low – 63.9 percent in the wake of the Great Recession – as financial issues including unemployment, underemployment, student loan debt and tight credit conditions have weighed on potential homebuyers.

There are signs that may be changing, however. People 34 and younger are the largest group of homebuyers, according to a recent National Association of Realtors study that looked at 6,572 responses from a survey of homebuyers in 2014. Millennials represented 32 percent of all recent buyers, while Generation X, including those ages 35 to 49, accounted for 27 percent. The median age of millennial homebuyers was 29, their median income was $76,900 and they typically bought a 1,720-square foot home costing $189,900, according to the NAR.

“The No. 1 reason they want to buy is just to own a home of their own,” says Jessica Lautz, director of survey research and communications at the National Association of Realtors.

If you’d like to trade in your rental for a place to call your own, here are the steps you need to take.

Start saving now. It takes time to build up enough savings for a down payment. “Among first-time buyers, 28 percent save for six months or less, while 13 percent save for more than five years,” Lautz says

The typical down payment for a home is generally 20 percent, but there are a variety of programs that can open the door to homeownership with as little as 3 percent or even no money down.

First-time homebuyers with low to moderate income levels may be able to qualify for a MyCommunity mortgage product through Fannie Mae with a 3 percent down payment. “Community mortgage products are better than [Federal Housing Administration] loans because the mortgage insurance is much less expensive and the down payment requirement is lower,” explains Gina Pogol, consumer finance editor at Charlotte, North Carolina-based LendingTree.

The FHA backs several kinds of mortgage programs. “The 203(b) is the most commonly used. It’s used to purchase or refinance homes with 3.5 percent down, as long as they have a credit score of 580 or higher and qualify for financing,” Pogol says. However, she adds, “The average score of borrowers who actually get approved is closer to 700. Another FHA program is the 203(k), which can be used to buy or refinance property that needs to be built or rehabbed.”

Start saving by setting up a special savings account and automatically transferring a set amount into it each month. Deposit any bonuses or gifts into this account as well. How long it will take to reach your down payment goal depends on the amount you need and how much you are able to sock away each month. “For someone buying a $200,000 property with 3 percent down, saving $500 a month, it will take a year. And there are still closing costs to deal with,” Pogol says.

Consider alternative down payment sources. There are other options in addition to your personal savings, which include gifts from relatives or friends or a withdrawal from your individual retirement account for a first home purchase. If you are lucky enough to have a generous relative or friend willing to gift funds for your down payment, you are required to furnish an official letter documenting that for your lender.

Zev Fried, a senior financial planner at Los Angeles-based JSF Financial LLC, warns against tapping your retirement funds for a down payment, however. “From a planning perspective, pulling from a retirement account for a down payment is often the worst option. A retirement account is for retirement, and should only be tapped for dire emergencies, as there are usually penalties and taxes when one withdraws money from these accounts,” Fried says.

Minimize payment shock. Consider how much you can actually afford, starting by looking at what you are paying in rent. If you are looking to buy more house than your current rent payment, Pogol recommends potential homebuyers “test drive” the higher monthly payment.

“If their current rent is $1,000 a month and they want to buy a home with monthly principal, interest, taxes and insurance – called a ‘PITI’ payment – for $1,400 a month, I’d recommend that they put $400 a month into savings and see how hard or easy that is,” Pogol says.

Understand inventory conditions. Once you start shopping for a home, understand that current tight levels of inventory, or the number of houses on the market, could require patience and compromise.

“We are now seeing inventory is the top reason slowing down and stopping potential buyers. Among recent homebuyers, from the 2014 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, the hardest task in the homebuying process is just finding the right home,” Lautz says. “Most first-time buyers have to compromise on some aspect of their wish list. Seventy-five percent of recent first-time buyers had to compromise on at least one wish-list item, most commonly the size and price of the home.”

Although the path to homeownership can take some time, there are financial benefits, including the mortgage-interest deduction on your income taxes. However, the intangible benefits often outweigh economic factors. Soon you may be spending weekends fixing up your castle and turning it into your dream home.

Maintenance (and More) Questions You’ll Wish You Asked Before Buying Your House

Houselogic.com|John Riha| Link



If you bought a house with no maintenance issues big or small, let us know. That would be one for the record books. In reality, most homeowners find a problem, quirk, shortcoming, whatever, within the first couple of months.

To actively ferret out your home’s trouble spots and head off headaches, know the right questions to ask before you buy. That doesn’t mean potential problems go away, but you’ll have eyes wide open and can adjust your budget accordingly.

And if you’ve already settled in, getting answers to these key questions will help you get to work putting the shine on your castle. Ask the previous owner, your REALTOR®, and your new neighbors for helpful answers.

1.  Has There Ever Been a Busted Pipe?

A broken pipe isn’t rare; in fact, water damage caused by a frozen or burst pipe is a leading cause of homeowners insurance claims, at around 22% of all home insurance losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What bursts? Typically exposed water pipes in unheated basements and crawl spaces, along with exterior faucets.

Another prime suspect of water damage: old washing machine hoses.

A good inspector usually can tell if water damage has occurred, and any damage should be disclosed by the previous owner at the time of sale. Nevertheless, you should:

  • Make sure exposed pipes in unheated areas are protected with pipe insulation.
  • Install frost-proof spigots on all exterior faucets. The spigots let you put a shutoff valve inside your home so freezing isn’t likely.
  • Check that washing machine hoses are in good condition and replace, if necessary, with braided steel hoses with brass fittings ($11 to $18 for a 5-foot hose). They’re much stronger and longer lasting than rubber hoses.

The big fallout from water damage is moisture problems you won’t see — behind drywall and trim — which can lead to mold. If you know there’s been a major leak, a mold remediation pro ($200 to $600) will tell you if mold is present and the steps required to remove it.

2.  How Old is the Roof?

Knowing the approximate age will give you a good idea of how soon you’ll face — and need to budget for — repairs or replacement. A new roof is no small matter: “Remodeling” magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report” pegs the average national cost of a roof replacement at $19,528.

The most common type of roofing — regular asphalt shingles — needs to be replaced after 15 to 20 years. Here are estimated average life spans for other types of roofing materials:

  • Top-of-the-line (architectural) asphalt shingles: 24 to 30 years
  • Metal (galvalume): 30 to 45 years
  • Concrete tile: 35 to 50 years
  • Wood shakes: 20 to 40 years

If you don’t know the age of your asphalt roofing, use these general guidelines to determine if new shingles are in order:

1. Sand-like roofing granules accumulate in the bottoms of gutters and flow out through downspouts, but otherwise the roofing looks in good shape. Inspect for deterioration in spring and fall.

2. Bare spots begin to appear where patches of protective granules have worn away, and the edges of shingles start to curl — a strong signal that you need new roofing.

3. Shingles become brittle and begin to crack and break. You might be able to replace a few. But if roofing nail heads become exposed (that is, they’re no longer hidden by the overlapping shingles), an expensive roof leak is likely.

Tip: Know how many layers of roofing your house has. Most building codes allow two layers (because of weight concerns): the original roofing, and one re-roofing layer over that.

3.  Any Infestations of Termites, Carpenter Ants, or Other Pests?

This should be disclosed by the previous owner at time of sale. But even if the owner dealt with a past infestation — and can offer proof, such as a receipt for pest control — that doesn’t mean the little buggers have been totally eliminated.

Whatever conditions made your house ripe for infestation in the first place — a slow leak under the house, soft rotting wood that attracts insects — may still be present. Plus, many infestations aren’t confined to one house. It may be a neighborhood-wide problem.

Be proactive, because the average cost of a termite extermination treatment around the perimeter of a 2,500-square-foot house is $1,700 to $3,200. Repairs to wooden framing, sheathing, and siding can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

You should:

  • Ask neighbors about any problems they’ve had with pests.
  • Seal cracks and holes around your house.
  • Keep attics, basements, and crawl spaces dry and well-ventilated.
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are in good repair, and that the soil around your foundation slopes away from your house at least 6 inches over a 10-foot distance.
  • Repair or replace any rotted wood.
  • Keep firewood and lumber piles at least 20 feet from your home.

4.  Any Pets Buried in the Backyard?

For a grieving homeowner, it can make sense to bury Bosco in his favorite spot under the old oak tree.

On one hand, we sympathize; on the other, it’s kinda creepy. If you didn’t know, you might go out to with a shovel to plant a bunch of hostas. Surprise! You’ve unearthed Bosco.

If you ask this question and the answer is yes, you can:

  • Ask where the animal is buried and simply avoid gardening in that spot.
  • Ask the previous owner to remove the remains.
  • Remove the remains yourself.

If the previous owner refuses your request, you’re not exactly on firm legal ground. Disclosure laws are hazy on this point. Check your state’s disclosure laws.

Most states allow pets to be buried in a yard as long as they’re a prescribed distance from waterways, water sources, and nearby residences (usually 100 to 200 feet); the animal is buried 6 inches to 2 feet in depth; and there’s some sort of precaution (a kitty coffin or a covering of stones would do the trick) so the carcass can’t be dug up by animals. Major cities may not allow any type of pet burial. Aask your county’s board of health and animal control agency for local regulations.

If you find out there’s a buried pet and want it removed, write a letter to the previous owner requesting removal — and keep a copy. If you decide to go to court, you’ll want a document that proves you made the request.

Better yet, hire an attorney to draft a letter. A letter from a lawyer commands attention.

The bottom line: If you drag this all the way to court, it’s probably not worth the aggravation and bad blood. A better solution: Hire someone to dig out the remains and take them away, or do it yourself. Then plant those hostas.

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Does Your Home Have Too Much Personality?

Zillow Blog| October 17, 2014| Brandon Desimone| Link


Many sellers love their homes. They’ve made some of their most important memories there, and their home is literally where their heart is. When these homeowners took on improvements, from painting rooms to kitchen and bath renovations, they likely did it with the idea of adding “personality.” And then, when it’s time to sell, those same homeowners sit across the dining room table from their real estate agent and wonder why, after three months, their home hasn’t sold.

What went wrong? Usually, it’s because the home has too much personality. The problem with personality is that buyers see you, and not themselves, in the home you’re hoping to sell. If you’re serious about selling your home and you want to achieve the highest value, you need to make the home as neutral as possible. Here’s how.

Remove family photos, heirlooms, diplomas and personal items

Buyers don’t want to feel like they’re walking through someone else’s house. They want to feel that they’re walking through a home that could potentially be theirs. The more neutral the home, the easier it will be for them to imagine themselves there. As proud as you may be of your college degree or of little Susie’s first footprints, they don’t need to be on display when your home is for sale. The process of putting these items away may bring up emotions, but that’s part of the process. Cost to do this: $0.

Repaint rooms with personality

You may have taken some time to choose the deep red color for your dining room, the heavy oak paneling in the family room or Johnnie’s jungle wallpaper. While these were personal choices for you and may have served your time there well, they may be off-putting to a potential buyer for any number of reasons. Before you sell, paint these rooms a neutral color and take down the heavy paneling. These are not big or expensive projects, but the return can be huge. Cost to do this: less than $1,000 depending on the size and number of rooms.

Show the rooms as they should be used

The room off the kitchen is unmistakably the dining room. But if you use it as a home office, it throws a buyer off. Likewise, if you’ve used a small bedroom as your child’s toy room/your closet spillover, the same thing will happen. In the visual age of the Internet, Instagram and Facebook, people need to visualize what each room is. Some people simply don’t have the imagination. No matter how obvious it is that the dining room is the dining room or the third room upstairs is the third bedroom, the buyer needs to see it used that way, not the way you use it. Cost to do this: $0.

Detach yourself emotionally

Ultimately, when you go to sell, it’s time to stop thinking of your property as your home. Instead, think of it as an investment, and you need to get the best return on your investment possible.

To do this, you must turn your home into a product on the market. This means you must emotionally detach from the home you love. If you’re not ready to do that, you may not be ready to sell yet. You may not want to take out the personality you added, and that you love. That’s OK, but be aware it will probably result in a smaller pool of interested buyers and a lower sales price. And the more neutral you can make the home, the wider the base of potential buyers you’ll have.

21 Hot Housing Trends for 2015

RealtorMag| December 2014| Barbara Ballinger| Link


Everyone wants to be hip, and the latest trends in design can help distinguish one home from another. And it’s not all flash; many new home fads are geared to pare maintenance and energy use and deliver information faster. Here’s a look at what’s coming.

  1. Coral shades. A blast of a new color is often the easiest change for sellers to make, offering the biggest bang for their buck. Sherwin-Williams says Coral Reef (#6606) is 2015’s color of the year because it reflects the country’s optimism about the future. “We have a brighter outlook now that we’re out of the recession. But this isn’t a bravado color; it’s more youthful, yet still sophisticated,” says Jackie Jordan, the company’s director of color marketing. She suggests using it outside or on an accent wall. Pair it with crisp white, gray, or similar saturations of lilac, green, and violet.
  2. Open spaces go mainstream. An open floor plan may feel like old hat, but it’s becoming a wish beyond the young hipster demographic, so you’ll increasingly see this layout in traditional condo buildings and single-family suburban homes in 2015. The reason? After the kitchen became the home’s hub, the next step was to remove all walls for greater togetherness. Design experts at Nurzia Construction Corp. recommend going a step further and adding windows to better meld indoors and outdoors.
  3. Off-the-shelf plans. Buyers who don’t want to spend time or money for a custom house have another option. House plan companies offer myriad blueprints to modify for site, code, budget, and climate conditions, says James Roche, whose Houseplans.com firm has 40,000 choices. There are lots of companies to consider, but the best bets are ones that are updating layouts for today’s wish lists—open-plan living, multiple master suites, greater energy efficiency, and smaller footprints for downsizers (in fact, Roche says, their plans’ average now is 2,300 square feet, versus 3,500 a few years ago). Many builders will accept these outsiders’ plans, though they may charge to adapt them.
  4. Freestanding tubs. Freestanding tubs may conjure images of Victorian-era opulence, but the newest iteration from companies like Kohler shows a cool sculptural hand. One caveat: Some may find it hard to climb in and out. These tubs complement other bathroom trends: open wall niches and single wash basins, since two people rarely use the room simultaneously.
  5. Quartzite. While granite still appeals, quartzite is becoming the new hot contender, thanks to its reputation as a natural stone that’s virtually indestructible. It also more closely resembles the most luxe classic—marble—without the drawbacks of staining easily. Quartzite is moving ahead of last year’s favorite, quartz, which is also tough but is manmade.
  6. Porcelain floors. If you’re going to go with imitation wood, porcelain will be your 2015 go-to. It’s less expensive and wears as well as or better than the real thing, says architect Stephen Alton. Porcelain can be found in traditional small tiles or long, linear planks. It’s also available in numerous colors and textures, including popular one-color combos with slight variations for a hint of differentiation. Good places to use this material are high-traffic rooms, hallways, and areas exposed to moisture.
  7. Almost Jetson-ready. Prices have come down for technologies such as web-controlled security cameras and motion sensors for pets. Newer models are also easier to install and operate since many are powered by batteries, rather than requiring an electrician to rewire an entire house,says Bob Cooper at Zonoff, which offers a software platform that allows multiple smart devices to communicate with each other. “You no longer have to worry about different standards,” Cooper says.
  8. Charging stations. With the size of electronic devices shrinking and the proliferation of Wi-Fi, demand for large desks and separate home office is waning. However, home owners still need a dedicated space for charging devices, and the most popular locations are a corner of a kitchen, entrance from the garage, and the mud room. In some two-story Lexington Homes plans, a niche is set aside on a landing everyone passes by daily.
  9. Multiple master suites. Having two master bedroom suites, each with its own adjoining bathroom, makes a house work better for multiple generations. Such an arrangement allows grown children and aging parents to move in for long- or short-term stays, but the arrangement also welcomes out-of-town guests, according to Nurzia Construction. When both suites are located on the main level, you hit the jackpot.
  10. Fireplaces and fire pits. The sight of a flame—real or faux—has universal appeal as a signal of warmth, romance, and togetherness. New versions on the market make this amenity more accessible with more compact design and fewer venting concerns. This year, be on the lookout for the latest iteration on this classic: chic, modern takes on the humble wood stove.
  11. Wellness systems. Builders are now addressing environmental and health concerns with holistic solutions, such as heat recovery ventilation systems that filter air continuously and use little energy, says real estate developer Gregory Malin of Troon Pacific. Other new ways to improve healthfulness include lighting systems that utilize sunshine, swimming pools that eschew chlorine and salt by featuring a second adjacent pool with plants and gravel that cleanse water, and edible gardens starring ingredients such as curly blue kale.
  12. Storage. The new buzzword is “specialized storage,” placed right where it’s needed. “Home owners want everything to have its place,” says designer Jennifer Adams. More home owners are increasingly willing to pare the dimensions of a second or third bedroom in order to gain a suitably sized walk-in closet in their master bedroom, Alton says. In a kitchen, it may mean a “super pantry”—a butler’s pantry on steroids with prep space, open storage, secondary appliances, and even a room for wrapping gifts. “It minimizes clutter in the main kitchen,” says architect Fred Wilson of Morgante-Wilson.
  13. Grander garages. According to Troon Pacific, the new trends here include bringing the driveway’s material into the garage, temperature controls, sleek glass doors, specialized zones for home audiovisual controls, and a big sink or tub to wash pets. For home owners with deeper pockets, car lifts have gone residential so extra autos don’t have to be parked outside.
  14. Keyless entry. Forget your key (again)? No big deal as builders start to switch to biometric fingerprint door locks with numerical algorithms entered in a database. Some systems permit home owners to track who entered and when, says Malin of Troon Pacific.
  15. Water conservation. The concerns of drought-ravaged California are spreading nationwide. Home owners can now purchase rainwater harvesting tanks and cisterns, graywater systems, weather-controlled watering stations, permeable pavers, drought-tolerant plants, and no- or low-mow grasses.
  16. Salon-style walls. Instead of displaying a few distinct pieces on a wall, the “salon style” trend features works from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall. Think Parisian salon at the turn of the century. HGTV designer Taniya Nayak suggests using a common denominator for cohesiveness, such as the same mat, frame color, or subject matter. Before she hangs works, she spaces them four to five inches apart, starting at the center and at eye level and working outward, then up and down. She uses Frog Tape to test the layout since it doesn’t take paint off walls. Artist Francine Turk also installs works this way, but prefers testing the design on the floor like a big jigsaw puzzle.
  17. Cool copper. First came pewter; then brass made a comeback. The 2015 “it” metal is copper, which can exude industrial warmth in large swaths or judiciously in a few backsplash tiles, hanging fixture, or pots dangling from a rack. The appeal comes from the popularity of industrial chic, which Restoration Hardware’s iconic style has helped promote, says designer Tom Segal.
  18. Return to human scale. During the McMansion craze, kitchens got so big they almost required skates to get around. This year we’ll see a return to a more human, comfortable scale, says Mark Cutler, chief designer of design platform nousDecor. In many living or family rooms that will mean just enough space for one conversation grouping, and in kitchens one set of appliances, fewer countertops, and smaller islands.
  19. Luxury 2.0. Getting the right amount of sleep can improve alertness, mood, and productivity, according to the National Sleep Foundation. With trendsetters such as Arianna Huffington touting the importance of sleep, there’s no doubt this particular health concern will go mainstream this year. And there’s no space better to indulge the desire for quality rest than in a bedroom, says designer Jennifer Adams. “Everyone is realizing the importance of comfort, quality sleep, and taking care of yourself,” she says. To help, Adams suggests stocking up on luxury bedding, a new mattress, comfortable pillows, and calming scents.
  20. Shades of white kitchens. Despite all the variations in colors and textures for kitchen counters, backsplashes, cabinets, and flooring, the all-white kitchen still gets the brass ring. “Seven out of 10 of our kitchens have some form of white painted cabinetry,” says builder Peter Radzwillas. What’s different now is that all-white does not mean the same white, since variations add depth and visual appeal. White can go from stark white to creamy and beyond to pale blue-gray, says Radzwillas. He also notes that when cabinets are white, home owners can choose bigger, bolder hardware.
  21. Outdoor living. Interest in spending time outdoors keeps mushrooming, and 2015 will hold a few new options for enhancing the space, including outdoor showers adjacent to pools and hot tubs along with better-equipped roof decks for urban dwellers. Also expect to see improvements in perks for pets, such as private dog runs and wash stations, says landscape architect Jean Garbarini of Damon Farber Associates.

While it’s fun to be au courant with the latest trends, it’s also wise to put what’s newest in perspective for your clients. Remind them that the ultimate decision to update should hinge on their needs and budgets, not stargazers’ tempting predictions.

The Most Common and Costly Mistakes Made by New Homeowners


December 8, 2014| RISMedia| Nik Caruso| Link

A new home is one of the biggest purchases homeowners will make in their lifetimes. Regrettably, sometimes costly mistakes are made by various parties of the transaction – builders, remodeling contractors, or even the new homeowners, themselves. Knowing a few of the common mistakes homeowners make can prevent future snafus from happening and save you lots of time, headaches and most importantly, money.

From David MacLellan, George Wolfson, and Douglas Hansen, authors of The Home Book, here are some of the most common costly mistakes made by new homeowners.

Storing Household Goods on Garage and Attic Trusses. Garage and attic trusses are designed to support the weight of the roof and ceiling and not the weight of anything else. Unfortunately, many homeowners view the space in the attic and above the garage ceiling as a great place for additional storage. Storing household goods in these areas can result in sagging and even a possible collapse of the roof structure. If a homeowner wishes to use this space for storage, a structural engineer should be consulted to determine if additional reinforcement is necessary. 

Altering Finished Grades.  Most single family residences are delivered with a driveway, but without the walkways, patios, landscaping, and drainage systems. Building codes usually require that that the surrounding bare lot slopes away from the home so rainwater flows away from the home. Unfortunately, the homeowner or an aftermarket contractor will often pour the sidewalks and patios directly on top of the finished grade which allows water to flow between the walkway and the home.  Swimming pool contractors have been known to set their decks and coping too high, causing water to flow back toward the home.  Water that flows and seeps under the foundation and can cause the foundation to shift.  If the soils have high clay content the water may not drain readily and the soil can then swell to up to 30 percent of its dry volume, and the foundation can move upward causing extensive interior and exterior damage.

The bottom line: Alteration of finished grades results in some of the most costly claims made in construction defect disputes.

Improperly attaching a Deck Trellis, Sunscreen, or Lanai Structure to the Home. There are many proper ways to create a watertight connection between the home and a deck trellis or lanai structure. Unfortunately, these “add on structures” are often just nailed or bolted directly to the outside wall of the home. Inevitably, rainwater finds its way into the penetrations and the dry rot process begins. It is critical that the deck ledger (the board that is placed up against the side of the home) be flashed with metal flashing in an industry-approved manner.  If bolts are used to attach the ledger board to the home, the bolt holes should be filled with caulk. Local government agencies often require a building permit to construct a trellis or lanai attached to a home because they are considered a structure that could fall and cause injury. Decks which are attached to the homes or which are larger than 200 square feet, or which are over 30 inches above the adjacent grade within three feet, often require a building permit. Patio covers may also require a building permit. Check with the local building department before starting work.

Allowing Irrigation Sprinkler Heads to Spray Against the Home. Irrigation sprinkler heads that spray against the panel or lap siding, masonry, or stucco walls of a home can lead to rotted walls and leaching of color from the siding, masonry or stucco and even movement of the foundation.  It is important that all irrigation spray be directed away from the home rather than towards the home. Spray heads should be checked regularly during the irrigation season to make sure that they have not turned and point toward the home. Posts supporting overhead decks that have shrubbery growing closely around them are particularly vulnerable to irrigation spray.

Disconnecting or Not Using Bathroom and Laundry Vent Fans. Bathrooms and laundries are areas of high humidity. Bathroom and laundry fans should never be disconnected (even though the noise may bother the occupant). The fan should always be turned on during use of the room. Failure to use the vent fans can result in water vapor getting into the drywall, electrical outlets and even the framing members. Over time, mold, mildew and fungi may grow in these areas. Water vapor that condenses on walls and windows can eventually find its way into the walls of the home and weaken the structure through dry rot. Rooms where humidifiers are used should also be well ventilated.

Walking on the Roof.  Walking on the roof is dangerous. Slips and falls can cause serious injuries. Untrained persons are likely to break or scuff the roof covering and cause roof leaks.  Cleaning gutters should be done from a ladder and not by standing on the roof. If an object is thrown on the roof, such as a child’s toy, it should be retrieved using a ladder and a telescoping pole rather than by walking on the roof. Most residential warranties exclude damage resulting from unauthorized persons walking on roofs.

Overloading Upper Cabinets. While lower cabinets rest on the floor, upper cabinets are hung from a wall using screws or nails. By stacking heavy dishes and glassware in an upper cabinet, a homeowner can load the cabinet beyond its capacity. This can result in sagging shelves, or worse yet, detachment of the cabinet from the wall. Heavy china and cookware should always be placed in the lower cabinets. Do not overload cabinet drawers with heavy items and take care to not pull drawers out too far. This action results in the plastic guide being snapped off at the back of the cabinet drawer.

Tinting Dual Pane Windows. Many new homes are constructed with dual pane windows (also known as double-glazed windows or insulating windows). The two panes of glass are separated by a spacer up to 5/8 inch in thickness. The air space between the dual panes is “dead air.” This area is so tightly sealed that air can neither enter nor leave the space. By placing a tinting film on the inside of the window, the sun’s rays are reflected back into the dead air space. The temperature in this space can become so hot that it may cause the elastic seal to rupture, causing the insulating value of the window to be lost.  Windows with broken or ruptured seals are easy to identify: they have moisture between the panes of glass. Homeowners should never tint a dual pane window on the inside unless it is specifically approved by the window manufacturer.

Incorrectly Installing a Security Alarm / Penetration of Windows and Walls. If an after-market alarm is installed by the homeowner or by a contractor who has not been hired by the builder, great care should be taken to seal all penetrations through windows and walls to avoid future dry rot. Never drill into the bottom track of a window or door to install an alarm contact.

14 Sneaky Mistakes That Can Decrease Your Home’s Value


CountryLiving.com| Caylin Harris| Link

Real estate experts weigh in on the unexpected little details that could cost you big time in the long run.

1. Choosing a crazy exterior color.
“Curb appeal is huge. Don’t pick a paint color that isn’t common in your neighborhood or doesn’t fit the style of your home.” — Pam Baldwin Foarde of Al Filippone Associates/William Raveis

2. Landscaping without a plan.
“Planting trees too close to the house or driveway — without considering how big they’re going to get — creates major problems later. Roots can cause breaks in the pavement that might raise your homeowners insurance or make it hard for you get a policy until the problem is fixed. Before you plant anything, think about how it will look in twenty years.” — Chris Winn of Kellar Williams/Advantage Group

3. Ignoring your entryway.
“Having a front door lock that doesn’t work properly or hardware that looks old and pitted makes buyers uneasy and puts them on high alert for what else has been let go in the house.” — Donna Marie Baldwin of Coldwell Banker

4. Assuming you’ll recoup every investment.
“People spend a lot of money putting in a pool and want to recoup the value when they go to sell their home. Unfortunately, putting in a pool never gets you back the value or cost of the pool.” — Chris Winn of Kellar Williams/Advantage Group

5. Fussing with the fireplace.
“Be cautious if you’re thinking about updating the fireplace, especially if you want to paint over exposed brick. Depending on what the trend is at the time it could lower the value. People tend to like the aesthetic of exposed brick.” — Chris Winn

6. Skimping on an AC system.
“Always pay for the next system up for your home’s size. Paying more initially will bring down your power bill while you live there and will up the value when you sell.” — Chris Winn

7. Getting too complicated with paint.
“It might be trendy to paint the trim a contrasting color, but it distracts the eye. Keep it the same color as the wall to maximize the space.” — Davida Hogan, home stager at Edited Style

8. Keeping old appliances.
“Pay attention to the brand and quality of your major kitchen appliances. If something is classic and well maintained that’s always a positive. But if you can’t get something clean, it needs to be replaced. People don’t want to move in and have to replace all of the appliances.” — Pam Baldwin Foarde

9. Neglecting the small stuff.
“Buyers have their eye on details you might forget. Keep up with cleaning and maintaining windows, making sure light switches work, or making sure the garbage disposal runs properly — it all shows that the house has been cared for.” — Davida Hogan

10. Not doing a deep clean.
“Even the tiniest details matter when it comes to cleaning. The tracks of windows, sinks, grout, ovens, and appliances are all looked at by buyers.” — Donna Marie Baldwin

11. Being too trend obsessed.
“Buyers aren’t attracted to trendy — they are looking for kitchens or bathrooms in classic, neutral colors. If you want to add color and personality to your home use bright accessories (that are easy to change) to bring in fun details.” — Pam Baldwin Foarde

12. Choosing hard to clean surfaces.
“Make sure you spend money on the correct cleaners for your countertops. Permanent stains on kitchen and bathroom counters mean that the whole piece will need to be replaced.” — Pam Baldwin Foarde

13. Thinking too small in small spaces.
“Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. That being said, you always want to make a small space feel as big as possible. Don’t re-tile a small bathroom with small tiles; they only make the space feel smaller. Use bigger tiles; they’ll open the space up.” — Davida Hogan

14. Neglecting your wood floors.
“I recently refinished the floors in my own home and found out that you shouldn’t clean them with water and vinegar because it dulls them over time. Also, instead of a complete overhaul, you can have your floors buffed every few years.” — Pam Baldwin Foarde


The Value of A Remodel


Big-ticket remodeling jobs are on the rise again, signaling growing consumer confidence in the value of remodeling. What remodeling job are you currently doing?

No Project Left Undone


During the past year alone, homeowners spent $18 billion on home improvement projects…1 out of 5 new homeowners took on a remodeling project in the past year.

Property Taxes, It’s That Time Again!

Santa Clara County property assessments due in mailboxes Saturday

Eric Kurhi| June 26, 2014| San Jose Mercury News| Link

Santa Clara County property owners who disagree with this year’s assessment of their home’s taxable value — due to arrive in mailboxes starting Saturday — can use new online tools to scrutinize how the figure was calculated and file a formal appeal.

With nearly 43,000 properties emerging from being underwater and coming on the tax rolls with a significantly higher valuation, some homeowners can expect to see a big jump in assessment.

“The residential real estate market has been so strong that some property owners will receive double-digit increases,” said Assessor Larry Stone.

Some of those rebounds are happening in the areas with properties that took the hardest hit in the recession, such as Morgan Hill and Gilroy. About 38,000 homes throughout the county remain valued below their purchase price.

Stone said that a negligible increase in the state’s Consumer Price Index — which is tied to the assessment for homes that were not underwater — means most property owners won’t see much of a change.

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