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A Homeowner’s Guide

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Pexels kindel media 7766930

Establishing A Maintenance Routine

The cost of maintenance and repairs depends on several factors. The age of your home, how well it was maintained by previous owners, weather conditions in your area, and your profit expectations will all impact how much you spend.

In general, homeowners should budget approximately one percent of their home’s value for maintenance and repairs. If you make a habit of putting aside a small amount of money each month to be earmarked specifically for home maintenance, then it will be less painful when unexpected repairs are needed or when appliances must be replaced.

Many prospective home buyers will not consider a home that is clearly in need of TLC, even in a hot market. Finishing your “punch list” before contacting a realtor will ensure that you are able to ask the highest price possible for your property.

Home Insurance

Lien holders require that you purchase homeowner’s insurance to cover damages to your property from the elements, fire, accident or theft. Additional coverage may be required for floods, tornados, hurricanes or earthquakes, none of which are covered by the typical policy. If you live in an area threatened by one or more of these, it is recommended that you expand your policy to cover them. Likewise, if you have a large number of valuables in your home, your insurance should reflect that.

Weigh The Return On Investment When Making Improvements

Painting is an obvious way to improve your home’s appearance without spending much money, but what about big-ticket items such as swimming pools, or designer kitchens? It is easy to get carried away when you are decorating your home, but many projects do not add lasting value to your home or guarantee that you’ll recoup your investment. Research what features are hot in your market and consider your expenditures wisely.

Keep Good Records

When you buy a car you want to see the maintenance records to make sure the oil was changed on a regular schedule. Why not do the same for your home? Scheduling maintenance on your home and performing regular check-ups of your chimney, mechanical systems, and roofing, etc. will ensure problems are fixed before they get out of hand.

CHECKLIST:

Items you should routinely inspect are:

  • Grading and drainage. Slope and landscaping need to angle away from your foundation.
  • Sidewalks, driveways, decks and patios. These should also slope away from your home. Regrading may be required and railings and balusters should be as required by code.
  • Exterior wood. Paint untreated wood, porches, deck columns and fence posts to prevent rot.
  • Doors and windows. Maintain caulking around frames or the money you spend heating and cooling your home will go, quite literally, out the window. Inspect your doors and windows for correct fit, missing caulk, paint, broken glass or cracks.
  • Exterior walls. Check brick and stone for missing mortar which can lead to deterioration from freezing and thawing. Blistering or peeling paint could indicate roof leaks, bad gutters, interior leaks from baths or laundry rooms, etc. Make sure there are no exposed nails or warped boards.
  • Roofing and surface water. Inspect your roof and chimney regularly with binoculars or from a ladder, when safe. Remove debris from gutters, and trim overhanging branches. Make sure to inspect after severe storms and high winds.
  • Garage. Check the door opener to make sure the safety reverse is working. Prime the inside and outside edges and check the rollers, tracks, and weather-stripping several times a year.
  • Walls and ceilings. Don't ignore minor leaks. They are sure to become major ones. Mildew and mold can be indicators of a serious problem. Maintain painted surfaces, inspect grout and caulking around sinks, tubs and showers. Replace missing grout to prevent damage to subsurfaces.
  • Attic. If your attic is accessible, inspect roof sheathing, insulation and moisture barriers.
  • Mechanical systems. Trip circuit breakers every 6 months and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) every month. Check lamp cords, extension cords and plugs. Test outlets near water for proper polarity and grounding. Most hardware stores carry testers that are inexpensive and easy to use. If fuses blow or breakers trip, have an electrician inspect your wiring. Ask him to make certain GFCIs are installed at any outlet within 6 feet of water. Never work with or near electricity when your hands or feet are wet. Never remove service panel covers. Avoid using extension cords when possible. Never replace blown fuses with larger fuses.
  • Plumbing systems. Know where the turnoff is for your system. Do periodic inspections of toilet tanks to ensure they are not wasting water. Make sure your water heater is performing as outlined in your owner’s manual. Remove sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of the tank. The pressure relief valve at the top of the water heater should be opened periodically to see that it is in operating condition. Check all valves in your home from time to time. If corroded, clean them and check for leaks.
  • Water treatment systems. Install a water softener if you have hard water to extend the life of your water heater and pipes.
  • Sump pumps. Periodically check for proper operation.
  • Heating and air conditioning. Service annually. Oil furnaces have parts that must be replaced periodically. Check for leaks, odor and soot. Keep bleaches, paint and other materials sealed and away from the heater. Service air conditioners every spring according to the operating instructions.
    Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels
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A 'Green' Green Thumb

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Greenthumb allan mas

Make Your Garden Environmentally Green

We hear so much about "going green" that we sometimes forget one of the best ways to be environmentally friendly is through a green thumb! Whether a careful design of a major landscape renovation or small changes to a few habits, making your garden green can be as simple or complex as you want. In fact, don't expect to make major changes in how you care for your yard overnight. Instead, consider some ideas you can implement now, and then slowly add to them. As you begin to implement new gardening techniques, you will also discover that making your landscape environmentally friendly is not just about saving mother nature - it can also save you money!

Here are some ideas to get you started on your new green garden:

Pesky weeds: Yes, dousing them with weed killer is easier. However, most are not children, pet or nature friendly. Some old fashioned weed pulling can be great exercise or a way to get the kids to earn their allowance.

- Try to get weeds early in the year as this will mean less pulling later on.
- Pulling a little at a time as you walk down a path is much better than a whole day of work.
- Putting down mulch can help prevent weeds.
- If you have an area that is overtaken by weeds instead of lawn, you might want to consider replanting the area with low native plants that need little attention.

Return of the native: Using native plants in your landscaping is a great way of choosing plants that are accustomed to the climate and resistant to pests in your area. Although not foolproof, you will find native plants much easier to care for than many imports.

- Also, many imports can be harmful to the native plants of the area. For example, English Ivy may look pretty when you care for it, but left on its own, it is a weed that quickly overtakes native plants and even trees! Research non-native plants beforehand to make certain they are not really noxious weeds for your environment.

Homebrewed compost: Adding a compost bin is a great way to recycle food and yard waste and get something in return for it! Composting does take about 3-6 months before you get to use any results, but once you get the cycle going you will have a great way to decrease your garbage and increase your plants.

- There are many styles of compost bins from indoor to outdoor, homemade to store bought
- You can even find stylized ones that give character to your décor!

- If you don't have a garden but have yard removal, check with your waste company's policies; many companies now offer to take the same items you would put in a compost bin (i.e. vegetable and fruit skins). They in turn use this to make compost for city parks. Even if you aren't using the compost, it is a great way to get this type of waste out of the landfill and to areas where it will be more beneficial.

Harvest the rain: While you're out picking up a compost bin, add a rain barrel too! These barrels can be placed directly under your gutter downspout or out from under the eaves. It is ideal to use the water regularly to keep it circulating. Overall this will help save on your water usage and bills!

Water thoughtfully: Watering your plants properly will avoid unnecessary waste.

- Use drip hoses for more even watering and to help decrease your water bill.
- When watering plants, pay attention to their roots and water them before the sun is high so the plant has time to drink before it evaporates.
- Using mulch around your plants can keep natural moisture in. Just make sure the mulch is not too deep and you leave some space at the base of the plant stem.

Grow your groceries: What could be more green than eating from your own garden? If you have never gardened before, start with a small plot and easier to grow veggies. For local advice, check out your neighborhood gardening associations, which often offer free classes. Getting garden fresh foods on your table not only helps the environment but offers you better flavor and ease of mind as you know exactly what went into your produce.

- Don't have a large yard? Urban community gardens are a fun way to build a sense of community, get free gardening help, and again, harvest some great tasting produce.
- Another way to garden in small spaces is through container gardens. Using containers to grow herbs and smaller vegetables like onions or spinach is a great alternative.
- As you garden more, you will begin to start your veggies from seeds rather than buying starts at the store. When making starts of your own, use old milk cartons or other containers that you can recycle and use again and again.

Invite the birds and the bees: Utilizing plants in your garden that are naturally appealing to beneficial insects and birds is a great way to improve the life of your plants. These good allies will help cut down on bad bug pests and can be fun to watch too!

- Plant flowers and plants that are attractive to butterflies, bees and other naturally beneficial insects. Encouraging natural pollinators and cutting down your use of pesticides is a great combo for these natural little friends.
- Some nurseries even sell lady bugs as they are a great natural defense for bug problems.
- Invite birds into your yard with berry plants, flowers, and a water bath. Birds are some of your best pest reducers.
- If you have berries you want to keep for yourself instead of the birds, there are safe netting options out there that don't trap birds but keep them off your berries!

Plan your garden: Mapping out a garden can save you a lot of headache and money down the road. But it can also allow you to be more green. When planning your layout you may pay closer attention to what areas of the yard get more sun or rain and install plants that are suitable for different locations.

- You can also minimize your gardening chores by planning certain "wild" areas or buffers using native plants that require little upkeep.

Hardscapes: Finally, when planning or renovating your yard, consider the non-organic features. From the paths to the containers, consider what impacts the materials you use will have on the environment and your garden's health.

- Recycled materials are becoming more readily available for constructing everything from paths to patios. Take a look at all the options and give these recycled materials a chance.
- Try to get planters and containers made of recycled material. Some people get very creative with old items that they turn into planters (i.e. an old sink or wheelbarrow).
- Try some of the new solar lights to add lighting features to your yard. They are earth friendly and can save you money!

USEFUL LINKS:

Environmental Protection Agency
https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/greener-living
This resource provides information about going green from the US EPA. Includes greenscape ideas for homes, businesses and recreational areas.

US Department of Agriculture
https://www.usda.gov/topics/rural/cooperative-research-and-extension-services
This resource will help you find state-specific plant information. Each state and territory has an office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices staffed by experts who provide useful, research-based information to agricultural producers, small businesses, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities.

American Horticultural Society
https://ahsgardening.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners
This resource provides a map that links to Master Gardener websites in the United States. You will be connected to regionally-specific advice on gardening tips, the best plants for your area, classes, and more.


Photo by Allan Mas from Pexels
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Peeling Off The Layers Of The 'Onion' That Is A Structural Pest Inspection.

Authored by | Published:
Termites jimmy chan

Wood pests, wood destroying organisms, structural pests, termites and dryrot, or, fungus, whatever or however you refer to them, they are the uninvited, unwanted guests that can degrade the wood structure of your home, or, the home you are interested in purchasing. What is interesting is how these conditions are addressed in the various states. Some states allow Home Inspectors to identify and report on these issues if the inspector is properly certified/licensed. Meanwhile, other states (California is one) do not allow Home Inspectors to identify wood destroying organisms unless that inspector is also licensed as a Structural Pest Inspector, of which there are very few. But, if the inspector is properly licensed, then the reporting will be done on a report form mandated by the Structural Pest Control Board located in Sacramento, and the reporting process falls under a whole slew of regulations administered by the Structural Pest Control Board. In California, a Home Inspector can only mention a “wood pest” or “white growth” condition and note it in his or her report, and then, can only refer/defer to a licensed Structural Pest Inspector/Company for further details, proper identification of the wood pests involved, and, recommendations necessary to correct/repair the issues present.

This practice is unfortunate as that process breeds (in California anyway) a huge conflict of interest situation that revolves around the home sale/purchase activity. In California, the Structural Pest Companies perform the “termite” inspections (the term commonly used to describe a Structural Pest Inspection) for little or no money with the intent of getting their “foot in the door” to do the chemical treatments and repair jobs, which can be very expensive. So, lets peel off the first layer of the onion. The scenario goes: The inspector/company you call to make the inspection is the same person/company who provides you with a report that outlines the repairs and chemical treatments that he/she says are needed, which is the same person/company shoving a pen and a work contract into your hands to sign, which is the same person/company that sends out their repair crew to perform the work, which is the same person/company that “inspects” the completed work and then issues a Notice of Completion and certifies the property “free and clear.” I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, that is a big conflict of interest.

But wait, lets take it one more step further. Lets peel off the next layer of the onion. How about the fact that many of the “termite” companies pay their inspectors straight commission on WORK PERFORMED/COMPLETED! Might that smack of a little conflict of interest? How comfortable would you feel having your home inspected under those conditions? How objective and impartial do you feel the outcome of the “termite” report will be, knowing that the “termite” company/inspector lost money the moment the tailgate of the inspectors’ truck went through the shop gate on the way to the inspection and now they need to recoup?

Time to peel the next layer off of the onion (are your eyes watering yet?). Now lets throw the real estate agent into the mix. The agent calls the “termite” company for his client (purchaser) and orders the inspection. All fine and good unless this agent happens to be one of those who has a predetermined idea as to what the outcome of the inspection should be in order to close the deal quickly and with no hassles even though the inspection report may have no basis of reality as to the conditions present. This is why, on occasions too numerous to count, two inspections of the same home are worlds apart. The rule is: both/all reports of the same home should contain the same findings, but the recommendations to repair may differ as inspectors may have different methods to correct the conditions found. It is very disturbing when comparing two reports of the same home, that, the diagram, as well as the findings, are as if the two inspectors looked at two different homes. But, this occurs all too often because of the pressure applied by the agents by “black balling” inspectors that are perceived to be “deal busters” because they actually do their job and accurately report conditions present.

Please don’t feel that this discussion is saying that all real estate agents or termite inspectors/companies are “shady.” More are good than bad, but the questionable still exist and you need to be aware and "do your home work” so you don’t end up in a situation for which you didn’t bargain.

So, lets peel another layer off of that onion, but in a positive way this time. ALWAYS, I REPEAT, ALWAYS interview the real estate agent before engaging them. Just because the agent meets you at the door of the office doesn’t mean you are “stuck” with him/her. If the agent is the listing agent of the property, be especially wary. They will not legally be working for you or have your best interest at heart. That is where the questionable termite inspector/company may suddenly appear. You want to ask the hard questions and get the proper answers! You want to know names and phone numbers---- not of sellers, but of purchasers of property handled by the agent so you can find out how their (the purchaser) experience was. Of course, this is a good time to find out how satisfied they were with the pest work that was performed. You would be surprised by how many buyers are very unhappy with the quality/completeness of the pest repair work but don’t have the stamina to “fight the system.”

In closing, referrals from qualified sources are your best way to find the inspector and real estate agent that will best serve you. Remember, the ones charging the least are most likely the ones to give you the least. A home purchase is probably the single largest investment any of us will make in our lifetime, so don’t shortchange yourself by falling into the age-old trap of the “cheapest.”


Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

Ron Ringen owns and operates Ringen’s Unbiased Inspections, which is located in Sonora, California. Ringen’s Unbiased Inspections serves the beautiful gold country of California that includes the foothills and Sierra Mountains in the counties of Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amadore. Ron has been involved with the Structural Pest Control business for 56 years and has been a licensed Structural Pest Inspector in California since 1968. Ron is a licensed General Contractor (B) in California and has been since 1977. Ron is certified with the American Institute of Inspectors as a Home Inspector, Manufactured/Modular Home Inspector and a Pool and Spa Inspector.

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