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Winter home maintenance projects

Seasonal projects around your home should continue into the winter months. Though it’s important to clean your fireplace and maintain your heating system, your focus during the winter months should be on the exterior of your home. Before winter weather sets in, think about the following projects:

· Remove debris from gutters—water can back up, causing leaks, ice dams, or damage to your roof and siding.

· Store your hoses and turn off the outside water.

· Apply caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows.

· Drain your sprinkler system.

· Seal cracks and leaks in the foundations and walls.

· Clean, cover, and store outdoor furniture.

· Inspect and upgrade attic insulation.

· Buy a roof rake.

· Protect your entryway floor.

Once winter weather begins:

· Carefully remove snow and ice from your roof and gutters.

· Remove snow as quickly as possible after storms from your deck, driveway, and sidewalks.

Finally, it’s always smart to stock up on water, batteries, flashlights, and other supplies ahead of time.

Tackling these projects will keep those winter blues away!

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What’s included in your home inspection report?

People are often confused about what a home inspection report contains. Is it a simply a glorified “honey do list”? Are there pictures? What is actually included?

A home inspection report is a lengthy document that will outline everything your home inspector sees. It provides an overview of the home you’re thinking about purchasing and typically includes pictures of the various items inspected. Each item the inspector checks is rated as acceptable, marginal, or defective. As an unbiased report to reference, it comes in handy when identifying areas you would like your agent to negotiate.

Home inspection reports include information about:

  • Structural elements: Visible foundation of the home.
  • Outside features: Grading along the house, siding, sidewalks, decks, lighting, and exterior outlets.
  • Roof areas: Condition of shingles, any repairs/patches to flat roofs, vents, chimneys, and gutters.
  • Attic space: Sufficient insulation, proper ventilation, and any sign of leaking or water damage.
  • Interior plumbing: Damaged or leaking pipes, water temperature, water pressure, functioning toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and showers.
  • Basement: Solid foundation, walls, and floors; notation of any signs of water intrusion or damage.
  • Fireplaces: Solid flue walls, functioning damper, and intact masonry in the firebox.
  • Electrical system: Proper function of circuit breakers, outlets, light fixtures, and fans.
  • Appliances: Proper function of stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, washer and dryer, and all other appliances.
  • Heating and cooling systems: Condition of furnace, air conditioning (temperature permitting), and water heater.
  • Garage: Windows, ceiling, framing, and roof; working garage door opener.

While the inspection is underway, many inspectors will discuss problematic areas of a home and answer any questions. It’s a lot of information to absorb. Thus, the report becomes the document you can reference later as you decide on your next step! Finally, if you buy the home, it then provides a great guideline as to when things may need to be replaced or repaired.

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Sellers: Is your home ready to go on the market?

As a seller, completing repairs and making sure your home is in great condition before listing is key to a successful sale. Before going on the market or contacting an agent, some sellers may request a pre-listing inspection. This approach will give you the guidance of an inspection report so you can better utilize your time and resources in making home repairs. Before your inspection appointment, you should take these steps:

  • Check to make sure all light bulbs are replaced and working.
  • Fix faucets so none are dripping or broken.
  • Check caulking in the bathrooms to make sure it is in good condition.
  • De-clutter rooms by removing extra furniture, personal items, and excess clothing.
  • Change your furnace filter.
  • Clean out gutters.
  • If the property is vacant: make sure all utilities are on.
  • Light the pilot light on stoves, furnaces, and water heaters.
  • Remove boxes, stored items, or debris from in front of attic entrances, electrical panels, and HVAC units.
  • Have pets secured in a kennel or gated away.

Be prepared to be away for approximately three hours. Once you have the report in hand, you can tackle areas documented as “defective.” Your agent and future buyers will be glad you took the time!

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Buyers: Are you asking the right questions during the home inspection?

Attending the home inspection is a key piece of the home buying process. Home inspection clients may feel overwhelmed by the process. Listening to the inspector discuss different aspects of a potential home may leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed, but you may not want to interrupt the inspector by asking questions. Let us reassure you―questions are always welcome! If you’re not sure what you should be asking, consider starting with these questions:

  • How bad is it?
  • How do we fix that?
  • What would you fix first?
  • Can you show me how (X) works?
  • How much time do I have before I should replace (X)?

Though many inspectors will provide information whenever they see a defective area of the home, make sure you know the answers to the following in advance:

  • How well is the drainage working around the exterior of the home?
  • Where are the shut-off valves, and how do they work?
  • Are there any serious problems with the roof?
  • Is the deck structurally sound?
  • Is there adequate insulation in the attic? Any signs of water damage?
  • Are all major systems and appliances working?
  • Is there any indication of structural issues or mold?

The more you know, the better you’ll feel when you purchase your dream home!

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House fright

Is the exterior of your home a nightmare? What makes it look haunted, and how can you fix it?

  • Wobbly railings: Check all bolts and screws; tighten if necessary.
  • Poorly lit areas: Cooler weather can affect your outdoor light bulbs. Keep a close eye to ensure they are still working properly, and replace bulbs as needed. Consider adding more lighting, especially in dimly lit areas. If you can’t see well, consider having additional lighting installed.
  • Broken windows: Check all windows to see if they work properly. Fix any broken glass.
  • Broken doorbell: A doorbell that doesn’t ring has four possible problems: the button, the chime, the transformer, or the wiring that connects them all. Most problems can be fixed easily by following on-line directions.

You can further improve your home’s outside appearance by:

  • Power washing the driveway and front porch; remove all dirt and grime that have built up over the years.
  • Adding big colorful flowers on your front porch or in the yard.
  • Mulching all landscaping beds.
  • Washing and storing window and door screens.
  • Investing in a new welcome mat or wreath for your front door.
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Many home inspection companies are Sentrilock Affiliate Members. What does this mean and how can it benefit you as an agent?

There are times when you may not be able to provide access to a home for radon testing or an air quality mold screening due to scheduling conflicts. Or maybe you’re running late to an inspection. By providing your trusted home inspector with the Sentrilock access code, you can free up some of your time, allowing screenings or inspections to continue while staying within your contingency.

This is most helpful with radon testing. The most accurate radon tests need to be placed within a home for at least 48 hours. Due to contingencies, agents often like the test dropped off at the home two days before the inspection. That way, the results can be read and shared on inspection day. As an agent, you can save time by not needing to meet the inspector for the radon drop … especially because the drop takes less than 15 minutes.

How can you find the code to share?

  1. Log onto using your username and password.
  2. Click on the “Default Lockbox” setting on the left side.
  3. Your CBS code will be displayed under the “Call Before Showing” settings.
  4. Give this code to any affiliate who needs have access to your lockboxes.

*This code usually does not change but it can be done if needed.

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Staging your home

When selling a home, most people want to sell it quickly and get a great price. One way to help achieve this goal is to stage your home before putting it on the market. What is staging? It’s simply making changes to your home so it appeals to the highest number of potential buyers. You may want to hire a professional stager or possibly stage your home yourself. Here are some steps to take to make your home market ready:

  • Remove personal items.
  • Remove half of the items from your closets.
  • Remove memorabilia.
  • Turn theme rooms into more neutral spaces.
  • Hire a professional cleaning staff.
  • Have your carpets professionally cleaned.
  • Make sure window treatments, such as blinds, are working properly.
  • Replace burnt-out light bulbs.
  • Clear off counters in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Buy fresh shower curtains.
  • Eliminate odors in rooms or from pets.
  • Repair cracks, holes, and dings in walls.

Exterior tips include power washing the deck; touching up paint around doors, decks, and garage doors; and sprucing up landscaping.

By investing some time and money in your home, the payoff could be well worth it!

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Attic Inspections: A Glance into a Home’s History

One of the most important areas for a home inspection is your attic. Potential buyers often overlook this space because it isn’t often seen or used. However, looking at a home’s attic can reveal a lot about the history of the home. Your inspector may find any of the following issues in an attic:

  • Dark, discolored rafters: If the rafters are any other color than natural wood, it could be a sign of fire damage.
  • Stains on the rafters, walls, or insulation: This can provide evidence that water has leaked or is leaking through the roof.
  • Droppings or chewed wires: Attics are perfect environments for possums, rats, birds, and mice.
  • Damaged rafters or trusses: Damaged trusses typically are due to poor workmanship when the house was built. Signs can include improper bracing, incorrect loading, overloading, or bad joint connections. When rafters or trusses are damaged or altered, it can affect the structural integrity of the roof.

Also keep in mind the importance of insulation in the attic. Insulation is what helps keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Most homes built before the early 70s followed poor insulation procedures. Spaces or empty cavities in between the insulation are typically to blame for escaping energy. If your house is drafty in the winter or has warm spots in the summer, you may want to confirm that the insulation was applied properly.

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Unraveling Commercial Inspections and Reserve Studies

Whether for an individual or an investment group, purchasing a commercial space can be a risky endeavor. Before making such a purchase, you may want to consider a comprehensive commercial property inspection. Similar to a residential inspection, this entails inspecting the exterior and interior of the building. Additionally, the inspector will look at the mechanical and electrical systems. What makes this type of inspection unique is that experienced inspectors can tailor the scope to fit your needs. Additional components to commercial property inspections that may be important include the following: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) assessments, lead-based paint screening, air quality mold screening, and radon testing. At the end, you’ll receive a comprehensive inspection report, including pictures. This inspection is one of the most important things to do before deciding to purchase commercial real estate.

Reserve studies are legally required for condominiums at least every five years, plus an annual review, per two pieces of Virginia legislation: the Condominium Act (55-79.39) and the Property Owners’ Association Act (55514.1).  A knowledgeable and experienced inspector can provide an analysis and spreadsheet detailing immediate needs and projected reserve requirements for periods of 10, 20, or 30 years.

The following areas are inspected as part of a reserve study:

  • Exterior: Grounds, roof, doors, and windows
  • Interior: Rooms, bathrooms, elevators, and stairways
  • Systems: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and fire suppression
  • Structural Assessment: Examination of all structural components

All associations, regardless of size, can benefit from this service!

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Top 10 Most Useful Tools

Your tool box or work bench may strike you as one of the least glamorous parts of home ownership. Many people move into their first house from a condo or apartment where maintenance projects were covered by the homeowners’ association. However, once you purchase a single-family or town home, repairs and maintenance tasks are your responsibility!

Purchasing good tools early on is a smart investment that in the long run will pay dividends in time and money.

Our experienced home inspectors have seen the repercussions of maintenance and repair lapses. They have compiled a list of the top 10 “must-have” tools. These essential items will see you through many basic tasks that inevitably will come your way―and they could save you money and minimize emergency repairs.

  1. Hammer
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Tape measure
  4. Sledge hammer
  5. Putty knife
  6. Utility knife
  7. Multi-bit screwdriver
  8. Combination wrench
  9. Bow saw
  10. Pliers

Though not technically “tools,” invest in pair of safety glasses and a good flashlight to round out your tool box or bench.

Keep in mind that part of making this investment is keeping your tools well maintained so they’re in good working order and last as long as possible.

Whether you’re asked to fix, build, repair, or maintain something, having these basic tools in your corner will provide the best chance of success.