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Category Archive: ‘Repairs/Improvements’

Do-It-Yourself YouTubes

The home-improvement videos on YouTube are causing more people to do their own repairs around the house – great! Personally, I like to stick to the minor fixes – let the pros help you with anything major.

(link to my recommended vendors).

Lowe’s is the most subscribed retailer on YouTube – this drywall repair video has over 668,000 views!

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Jim's Take on the Market, Remodel Projects, Repairs/Improvements | 2 comments

Home Maintenance


Another rule-of-thumb on how much to spend on your house:

Maintaining a home, especially an older one, can be expensive—in fact, experts say homeowners should be prepared to spend roughly 1 percent of their home’s value every year on maintenance.

The good news is, you can save on maintenance by completing simple tasks yourself. According to the experts at Underwriters, Inc. these include:

  • Cleaning the Gutters – To prevent costly damage to your home’s foundation, landscaping and siding, remove debris and leaves from the gutters at least twice a year. Don’t forget gloves and eye protection!
  • Open Garage Doors Manually – Don’t call a garage technician the next time your power’s out—simply locate the (usually red) cord, suspended from the ceiling-mounted operator, in your garage, and pull it to disconnect the cord from the motor.
  • Removing Stripped Screws – Avoid causing more damage when screws slip from a screwdriver. Place a rubber band or piece of steel wool over the screw and then try to remove it—if that method fails, use a screw extractor.
  • Repairing a Leaky Faucet – Leaks can cost hundreds in wasted water. Before you call a plumber, try DIY-ing by shutting off the main water supply, removing the faucet’s knobs, and checking the washers, stems and O-rings for signs of damage. Take these pieces to the hardware store to find exact replacements.
  • Stop a Running Toilet – Another plumber job you can do yourself! Remove the lid to the tank behind the toilet, and check the flush lever, rubber flapper, lift chain, float ball, pump and overflow tube. A running toilet usually requires just a simple adjustment or replacement to fix.

If you can master these essential homeowner skills, you’ll not only save money on maintenance, but also the expense of more costly fixes in the future.

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Repairs/Improvements, Tips, Advice & Links | 1 comment

Home Maintenance Costs


Back in 2009, we ran the first post entitled, Home Maintenance Costs:

After discussing the need for home maintenance with several clients  recently, I thought it would be a great time to review.

Every condo association in California is required to complete a Reserve Study so they are socking away enough money every month to repair and replace every item needed over time.  Homeowners should do the same!

Examples of things that need regular repair/replacement:  Air conditioning, appliances, BBQ, ducting, faucets, flooring, furnace, lighting, painting, roof, siding, sinks, toilets, windows, etc.

These are pure home repairs and replacements – they don’t include exterior maintenance or home improvements/upgrades/updating, which all matter too.

I came up with my own formula to estimate how much money homeowners should spend each year just on maintenance – try it out:

Age of home X square footage/15 = Annual spend

The 15 was derived from a reasonable number of years it will take to catch up on everything if you start today.  You may want to re-start again in year 16!

My formula is unscientific, but it is close enough.  Spend something!

Doing regular repairs will help you avoid multiple major expenses, and save you from needing a complete redo when it comes time to sell.

The joys of homeownership!

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Remodel Projects, Repairs/Improvements, Thinking of Buying?, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Solar-Panel Lease


We got the lowdown on the HERO program; here is more on solar leases:

An excerpt:

Net metering is an agreement between the utility company and the residential or commercial customer. The property owner who generates excess solar energy can sell it back to the utility company for credit to be used later. Solar panels often produce more energy than the home needs during the sunny months. In the winter when cloud cover obscures more of the panels, owners’ net metering credits can be used to pay down their winter utility bills.

When net metering is not an option, property owners are less likely to be interested in buying or leasing a solar system, as this instinctual savings incentive is lost.

The good news for solar in California: net metering continues, and SolarCity is optimistic about potential for even more tax credit growth in the state.

Going solar requires long-term planning. On average, it takes a homeowner 20 years to pay off the full cost of a solar system. Leasing solar panels eliminates the investment, but it still requires a similar, lengthy commitment.

What happens if the homeowner sells before the 20 years are up? There are three options:

  1. The seller may transfer the solar lease to their new home if it is in the same territory, for a cost.
  2. The seller may purchase the solar panels outright and include the cost in the home’s sale price, if they find a willing buyer.
  3. The buyer may assume the solar lease.

Since the solar lease is a contract, interested homeowners may be concerned that signing a solar lease will place a lien on the property. However, the lien is on the solar fixture — not the property. Therefore, if the homeowner stops paying for solar service, the leasing company’s sole recourse is to reclaim the solar system, not foreclose on the property.

On the other hand, taking out a mortgage to pay for the purchase of a solar system does create an additional lien on the property.

Another reason long-term planning is necessary before signing a solar agreement is the possibility of roof maintenance. That is, if the homeowner’s roof needs repairing, they will need to pay to have the panels moved before work can begin on the roof. Therefore, installing panels on a roof that will need maintenance in a few years is not wise.

However, the long-term investment does pay off, though it can take several years. The energy savings can be significant, especially for Southern California homeowners who receive the most sun. The average solar lease savings after the cost of renting the solar panels is a 15% reduction on monthly utility costs. Purchasing solar panels may provide bigger savings, but they won’t be realized until the system is paid off.

Read more about the details of solar leases here.

Read about prepaid solar leases here.

For a critical list of issues homeowners are to consider before signing a solar lease, click here.

Posted by on Mar 16, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Repairs/Improvements | 2 comments

Renovate America HERO

2016-03-10 15.53.17

Renovate America finances energy-efficient home improvements, and is part of the PACE program.  Because the ensuing loan gets put on your property-tax bill, it becomes a negotiable item when selling.

This film is a public service to help participants learn the basics – because you will come across these HERO loans when buying and selling.  Renovate America has been approved by 350 municipalities in California, and have every intention of expanding throughout the country – they have 600 employees!

They have the potential of becoming the Zillow of the home improvement sector – they think big. They have already implemented several customer-care benefits like monitoring the contractors – who don’t get paid until the consumer signs off – and providing contractor-dispute resolution whether the company is involved or not.

Loans are based on the homeowner having at least 10% equity based on a recent appraisal, or values from four AVMs (no income-qualifying required).  The loans are sold on Wall Street as HERO bonds.

Here is an introduction:

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Market Conditions, Remodel Projects, Repairs/Improvements | 13 comments

Pride-of-Ownership Test


Anyone who has looked at homes lately can attest to the surprising conditions in which people live.  The lack of maintenance transcends all price points too.

But it’s nothing money won’t fix.

Buyers should surrender early on……and expect to spend at least $25,000 to $50,000 on any house they buy.  It’s easier than trying to find the perfect house that doesn’t need anything.

But looking at houses then turns into a job of making lists of the repairs required. Is there a way to short-cut that process, and just use one simple gauge to know if the house could be a money pit?

When I enter a house, I still walk straight to the backyard first.  It is there that you will find the items that are hard or impossible to fix; yard too small, road noise, neighbors looking in, over-sized pools, etc.

Once we’re past that test, and everyone is getting comfortable with the interior layout, I make my way to the place where you can find the most clues about the seller’s pride of ownership.

The Master Bath – a place where the sellers spend time every day.  The most extreme conditions exist too – high use of hot and cold water, steam and mold conditions, multiple plumbing functions, venting, several appliances in use, laundry processing, etc.  There’s a lot of action going on in the master bath!

With all the action, is somebody keeping up with repairs?

If any room is going to be well-maintained, it is the master bath.  It’s not that big, and the moving parts are simple – a towel rack, a toilet-paper roller, lighting, fan, grout, window, sinks – easy stuff.

Plus, every guy wants to keep his wife happy – so if he is going to fix anything, it will be here.

No need to get into any personal items – just checking the hardware:

  1.  Are the towel racks secure?
  2.  Toilet-paper roller intact?
  3.  Drywall outside the shower or tub wet or damaged?
  4.  Adequate electrical outlets?
  5.  Toilet secured tightly to floor?
  6.  Toilet works properly?
  7.  Sinks drain normally? (two sinks are a must)
  8.  Adequate water pressure at sinks and shower?
  9.  Fan is quiet? Window works well?
  10.  Any sign of biological discoloration?
  11.  Baseboards are dry and tight?
  12.  Mirrors look good?
  13.  Ample lighting?
  14.  Mineral deposits on glass doors?
  15.  Shampoo bottles have a home?
  16.  Solid coat of semi-gloss paint?
  17.  Crisply-applied caulk, especially around the shower faucet?
  18.  Solid and tight grout lines?
  19.  Door that locks easily?
  20.  Is the floor of the sink cabinet dry?

If you are in a hurry or tend to get caught up in the excitement of looking at houses, then just concentrate on what you see in the master bath.

If you check off every item above, then the rest of the house should be in good shape too.  But if the sellers aren’t maintaining this room that has complex features but simple fixes – especially when on the market – then they probably haven’t done much to keep up the rest of the house either.

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Repairs/Improvements, Thinking of Buying?, Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links | 4 comments