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Updated: Friday, March 06, 2015

New Homes Need Inspections Also

Question: We are looking to buy a new home from a builder. We like the neighborhood and the price has been reduced to make it very attractive. Additionally, the builder is throwing in a number of extras, including paying all of our closing costs.

However, we do not know this builders reputation, and would like to have the home inspected before we go to closing. Is this possible?

Answer: In todays buyers market, most anything is possible, and I think its a very good idea. However, builders often reject such arrangements, for a number of reasons. Some builders claim that this will void their insurance policy and are afraid that someone will get hurt during the inspections. Other builders dont want their employees bothered by too many questions from the inspector, while other builders just say that "we will provide you with a house that has been approved by the county inspectors, so you do not have to worry."

But you are correct in worrying. According to Frank Lesh, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI, "even new homes have defects that only a professional can detect".

Keep in mind that in many counties, the government inspectors are busy and do not have time to carefully look at all aspects of the new home. Often, by the time the county inspector makes a site visit, your builder may already have put up the drywall, thereby covering up the electrical and the plumbing.

I have been involved in a number of new home warranty issues, many of which could have been avoided had the buyer been given the right to inspect the new home as it was being built. In one case, the new homeowner kept hearing pipes knocking every time the upstairs bathroom sink was turned on. The homeowner forced the developer to open up the walls -- at the developers expense -- and found that some of the plumbing pipes were not properly affixed to the wall. The building inspector that the homeowner retained -- after the house had been completed -- determined that this was what he called "water hammer".

Indeed, in this case, the builder acknowledged that had there been a periodic inspection, the problem would have been detected earlier, at a significant cost savings to the builder.

ASHI recommends a three-pronged inspection: prior to the pouring of the foundation, prior to insulation and drywall, and finally prior to the final walk-through.

You should tell the builder that you want the right to have an inspector of your choice -- and at your expense -- to conduct these three inspections. The sales contract you sign should spell out this right in clear terms.

There are many components involved in a new home -- such as the roof, the foundation, the electrical and plumbing and the heating and air conditioning systems. I recently heard of a situation where a homeowner complained that the new house was not being adequately cooled, and when a professional inspected the system, he discovered that the builder had made a mistake. The system that was designed for a smaller house was accidentally installed in the house that was inspected.

Once again, the developer had to spend a lot of money correcting the situation -- money which could have been saved had there been periodic inspections.

It often amazes me that when consumers buy a new car, they inspect it carefully, even to the point of kicking the tires. But when they buy a new house, they are more concerned about how many bedrooms there will be, and what size television will they be able to put in the family room.

To my knowledge, there are two major home inspection organizations: ASHI and the National Association of Home Inspectors.

If you do not have the name of a competent inspector, you can find one by going to either of these organizations website.

When you contact a home inspector, inquire of his/her qualifications and background and check him/her out on the Web and at the Better Business Bureau.

If you decide to hire an inspector, get a copy of the inspectors contract before you formally commit yourself. Read it carefully, and make sure that the inspector will be doing the job you want.

There is one controversial provision in most home inspectors contract, called "an exculpatory clause". This states that should the inspector make a mistake and negligently fail to pick up problem areas in the house, your only remedy is to get full refund of the contract price. This clause has been upheld in the State of Maryland. However, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that these exculpatory clauses will not be enforced "when a party to the contract attempts to avoid liability for intentional conduct of harm caused by reckless, wanton or gross behavior." Carlton v Home Tech, decided June 15, 2006. This was a modest fix but unless you can prove that the inspector was engaged in such behavior, the exculpatory clause will be enforced. State laws differ on this issue.

While not every home inspector will agree to delete this clause, it certainly is worth trying.

Purchasing a new home creates significant anxiety among many potential homebuyers. Why not get an inspector to be on your side to >
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How To Create Outdoor Shade: A Round-up Of 22 Ideas

I often joke that my body is solar powered. When Im in the sun, I feel energized and Im overall in a happier mood. That being said, I live where sunshine isnt something I get to enjoy all that often. In fact, it is -13 degrees Fahrenheit where I am right now, in Michigan As much as I would love to soak up some natural rays, Im not going to go outside and freeze to death Ill just wait until the weather gets warmer to bask in the suns glow.

Speaking of which, there can be too much of a good thing. Even though the sun feels good and we all need vitamin D and natural sunlight, come July, even us chilly mid-Westerners will take refuge under an awning or canopy for shade to get out of the heat and prevent sunburn.

Every backyard space should have a plan for integrating a comfortable shaded area, for our pets, our children, certain plants, our company and for ourselves

At my house, we have a back deck that is directly exposed to afternoon sunshine. This particular deck is hot to walk on, and plants left to grow on it often die if I leave them exposed all day. Even my sunbathing Great Dane, Ellie, avoids the back deck on hot days. There is zero shade.

This may sound blissful for those currently buried in snow, but its no fun during the hot summer months. To prepare for this summer, Im researching a variety of ways to provide shade to our patio.

My husband assumed this would be a costly project, but Im determined to show him that we can make our backyard and deck shady with a variety of DIY and/or affordable canopy options like those available from Quik Shade. Since he is the exact opposite of me and prefers to be out of the sun, I think he might come to like the idea of using our deck with a canopy on a Sunday afternoon, instead of sitting indoors. With so few warm weather days where I live, we need to take advantage of all the fresh air we can get

If youre like me and you have a deck, patio or backyard that needs a shady spot, youre in luck. Ive found 22 fabulous ideas for how to create outdoor shade affordably. From using PVC pipes and pergola, to curtains and umb>
Photo Collage Courtesy of Sommer Poquette.

  • DIY Outdoor Canopy Bed from Foxy Folksy
  • DIY Outdoor Awning from Curbly
  • DIY Simple Backyard Shade from All You
  • DIY Canvas Pergola from Shelterness
  • DIY PVC Cabana from Sunset Magazine
  • How to Make a Garden Canopy from Bright Bold amp; Beautiful
  • Papasan Canopy from Better Homes amp; Gardens
  • Garden Arch Canopy from Better Homes amp; Gardens
  • A Slice of Shade, Creating Outdoor Canopies from Martha Stewart
  • Perk up a Picnic, Easy Canopy from This Old House
  • DIY Outdoor Canopy from My Crazy Life
  • DIY Outdoor Canopy for less than 50 from The Dabbling Crafter
  • Cover Your Outdoor Space with a Shade Sail from The Garden Glove
  • Arrow Gazebo from The Home Depot
  • Beautiful Pergola Cover from Random Thoughts of a Supermom
  • Easy DIY Curtains for Outdoor Rooms and Spaces from Between Naps on the Porch
  • DIY Pergola Curtains from A Beautiful Mess
  • How to Shade Your Deck or Patio from The Family Handyman
  • Brown Garden House from The Home Depot
  • DIY Outdoor Curtains for Under 10 from Tiny Side Kick
  • No Sew Dropcloth Outdoor Curtains from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom
  • Umb>
    Photo Collage Courtesy of Sommer Poquette.

    What ideas do you have for giving your outdoor space some shade during the hot summer months?

    Sommer Poquette is a green-and-clean mom blogger from Michigan who writes for The Home Depot. While Michigan is still in the thick of winters cold, that hasnt deterred Sommer from dreaming about summer days warm enough to need shade protection from the sun. For Home Depots canopies and other shade-providing structures, you can go online to the Home Depot website.

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    Agents: Is Your Social Media Selling?

    Lets face it; social media is a great place to be in 2015. Whether youre a business owner or a real estate agent, social media has a place for you. But heres the catch -- social media is only effective if youre doing it right, all the time. Weve all seen those Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that started strong and slowly faded into the background of the expansive world of social media -- but that doesnt have to be you.

    Here are the best social media sites that you can utilize when it comes to selling your listings:


    Hands down Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world and offers so much when it comes to reaching the right audience. Aside from posting >


    Although youre only allowed 46 characters or less, Twitter is another social media site that can help sell your listings. Twitter is great for interacting with the community and potential buyers, and its a great platform for images and videos. Twitter is also useful due to the ability to provide hash tags with tweets, which categorizes key words when people search for them. For example, if youre selling a luxury home in Lexington, you can hash tag the words "luxuryhomes" and "lexingtonhomes", so that if someone searches for those phrases your post will be in the shown tweets. Followers can also retweet and favorite your listings, which will then show up on their feed and become visible to their followers.


    Pinterest is filled with great ideas and beautiful photos, so it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. But if youre creative and have the time, creating your own boards and pinning can be a fun and useful way to sell your listings. You dont want to bombard your followers with all listings, so you should have different boards >

    Remember, only consistent, and carefully thought out activity on these social media sites will bring the results that you want. By creating a presence on these social media sites and connecting with your target audiences, you can highlight your listings and get those homes sold

    For more information please visit: www.exposeyourselfpr.com.

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    Have You Considered Leasing Your Home?

    Your housing market may be heating up, tempting you to sell your home. But you may not be quite ready to let it go, or, when you run the numbers, you may not be able to sell it for as much of a profit as you may want.

    Have you considered leasing your home instead? You still retain ownership, giving you the opportunity to buy another home. And thanks to some generous tax rules, you can own your home for five years, occupy the home for two years, rent it up to three years and then sell it without paying capital gains taxes.

    With luck, youll gain equity on two properties. Thats how many people build wealth - with real estate rounding out their investment portfolios.

    When markets improve, often there arent enough homes available for purchase in the areas where families want to live. >

    The market may be good but is it a good time for you financially? The ideal time to lease your home is if you can rent it for more than youre paying in mortgage, taxes and insurance. You also need some savings that will cover months when the home isnt rented, as well as repairs that may come up.

    If you want to buy another home, the debt on the home you already own wont count against you as much as you may think, and especially if you already have the home leased. The lender may add a couple months of mortgage debt to your overall debt picture to be on the safe side because many properties dont rent right away or there may be lag-time between renters. With good to great credit, you can get a low down-payment loan that doesnt require all your cash.

    To help you decide if leasing is a good idea, talk with a real estate professional who enjoys working with the rental market such as an agent who is also a property manager. He or she will have comparables for other rentals in the area, so youll know how good the market is for homes like yours and how much you can expect to get for your home.

    Youll have to get your home ready to rent, just as you would to show it to a buyer. The better the condition, finishes and amenities your home has to offer, the more rent you can ask, within reason.

    A property management professional can handle the whole transaction for you, including showing your home and qualifying the renter with credit and criminal checks. Typically, this will cost you one months rent. If you think you wont be in a position to handle problems that may come up yourself, you can also hire the professional to manage your property.

    As the owner, you can decide whether or not to allow pets, but you cant refuse to rent to someone because of race, color, national origin, >

    Your real estate broker can perform a number of background checks for you on potential renters including credit scores, rental and eviction history, criminal and sex offender checks, motor vehicle checks, and employment verification. If you decide to rent your home yourself, there are companies online that specialize in background checks for landlords.

    Your rental agreement should include penalties for late payments, as well as outline clear terms -- length of the lease, possession date for move-in; terms for extending the lease, fees for late payments, pets or no pets and so on. You need to be very clear about what the renter is responsible for doing and what you will do as the owner. This will prevent disputes over who pays utilities, who mows the lawn and who calls the plumber.

    Make sure the renter also pays one months deposit so you can cover the costs of cleaning, repainting and other make-ready steps. Last, make sure your renter has renters insurance.

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    Why Rates Remain Deliciously Low

    The Mortgage Bankers Association announced in late February that housing is poised for stronger growth in 2015. Yet mortgage interest rates remain low. Should you lock in a rate now or see what happens?

    That depends on your tolerance for risk. Despite a positive outlook for the economy, researchers say that worries over global economic weakness continue to attract investors to US Treasuries.

    As investments, mortgages compete with treasury bonds. According to researchers, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has a lifespan of about seven years, making the 10-year Treasury bond the closest comparable investment. Thats why mortgage rates tend to fall when the treasury rate falls, and rise when the rate rises.

    Right now, the US economy is continuing on a path of steady growth. In 2014 payrolls grew at the highest rate since 1999. Low oil costs have lowered the import costs of goods and increased cash flow for consumers, which has helped drive economic growth for the past few quarters. All this good news should result in higher interest rates, but the MBA says global economic weakness and political unrest are putting downward pressure on interest rates.

    Because oil prices are predicted to remain low for a long time, and the U.S. dollar is getting stronger, the MBA says consumer price inflation will be held to 1.4 percent for 2015. Thats a good thing because inflation is the enemy of mortgage interest rates. If inflation picks up, the government will raise rates on overnight borrowing rates to banks. The result will be higher lending rates to consumers.

    In its latest weekly survey, Freddie Mac showed average fixed mortgage rates moved higher amid solid housing data on new home sales and home price appreciation. That said, fixed rates are still near lows not seen since May 2013.

    The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.80 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week. Compare that to a year ago when the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.37 percent.

    Should you lock in? Heck, yeah.

    Full Story >

    A Clean Home Is a Happy Home: 5 Self-Cleaning Technologies For Busy Moms

    Maintaining a clean and orderly home can seem like an impossible endeavor. Crumbs litter kitchen floors. Baby food and crayons stain clothes. Sticky little hands smudge windows. If youre a busy mom who feels like she cant keep up with her household chores, get some extra help with the following automatic self-cleaning solutions.

    Robo Vacuum

    Children leave trails of particles practically anywhere that they go. In a home with little ones who drop cereal and make crumbs, vacuuming is essential. Fortunately, we can >

    Tough Shower Scrubber

    Cleaning a shower can be a nightmare hard water and soap scum dont come off easily. The experts at SC Johnson have created a Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner designed to separate cleaning times by 30 days. The dual electronic dispenser mists the entire shower with a penetrating cleaner, eliminating mold, mildew and soap scum. Dirt simply washes away during normal bath time use as the Fresh Clean formula deordorizes the space. And for that monthly big clean, the system is equipped with a booster button for extra cleaning power and built-up grime.

    Smart Washer amp; Dryer

    Whirlpool rolled out its new Smart Top Load Washer and Dryer designed with smart home functionality, expected to be available this spring. You can increase drying time and save energy by programming your Smart Top Load Dryer to run in EcoBoost mode. Just make sure to set your Nest Learning Thermostat to "Away." The Whirlpool app can direct you to troubleshooting tutorials and customizable downloadable cleaning cycles for laundry that needs extra care e.g. baby clothes and comforters. Youll also use the touchscreen panel to select what and how to wash, a quiet mode and other built-in tech features.

    Electronic Pool Pro

    You cant escape the chore of pool maintenance for a beautiful landscape. But for an on-the-go household, regular pool cleanings can drop on the priorities list of things to do. Leave it to technology. Pool robo-cleaning devices scrub away debris on the pools floor and walls without the hassle of maneuvering the machine yourself. Check out the aquadynamic design of the Polaris 8350 Sport from In The Swim that offers maximum suction, excellent navigation and a powerful rear water propulsion system for agile cleaning. The Pool Rover S2-40 vacuums leaves, dirt and algae, cleans in one hour and can filter up to 5,000 gallons.

    3-Stage, 1-Touch Window Cleaning

    Automate your window cleaning with the WinBot by Ecovacs, a home robotic window cleaning system featuring one-touch cleaning, remote control technology and quiet operation. Winbot offers an advanced suction system for high-to-reach spots and laser technology for trusted auto-navigation and optimal cleaning. The three-stage cleaning process produces spotless results by first spraying a cleaning solution, squeegeeing and then applying rear cleaning pads to dry the window, removing streaks and lines.

    Full Story >

    Five Ways To Lower Your Mortgage Payment

    There are two kinds of homebuyers: those for whom the sales price is the main consideration, and those who are mostly concerned with what it will cost them per month. If youve already bought a house, there isnt anything you can do about the sales price. But there may be ways to lower what you shell out monthly.

    Want to lower your mortgage payment? Here are a few ways to do it.

    Get Rid Of Your Private Mortgage Insurance PMI

    "PMI is the lenders banks protection in the event that you default on your primary mortgage and no longer make payments and the home ends up going into foreclosure," said Investopedia. "If the borrower is unable to put down 20 percent or more, or does not have the required funds to do so, then lenders will typically look at the loan as a riskier investment for their balance sheet and will require a PMI payment from the borrower."

    That means you end up paying a premium above and beyond your principal, interest, and homeowners insurancecurrently about 1.35 percent. On a 200,000 loan, were talking about 2,350 a year. Remove your PMI, and thats 195 a month in your pocket.

    If house prices have been rising in your area, youve been in your home for at least two years, and you think your equity in your home has increased, talk to your lender.

    Lower Your PMI

    If you cant yet get rid of your PMI, you may be able to lower it.

    In January 2015, the government announced lower PMI rates for buyers taking out Federal Housing Administration FHA loans.

    "This change is expected to save more than two million FHA homeowners about 900 a year and allow about 250,000 consumers to buy their first homes in the next three years, according to a news >

    New homebuyers can take advantage of the lowered PMI; existing homeowners who want to lower their PMI will need to refinance.


    Lowering your PMI is far from the only advantage of refinancing. Taking advantage of low rates means you could save substantial dollars on your mortgage payment.

    "Depending on loan size, a rate reduction of as little as a half point can save some real money," said Fox Business.

    If you are currently paying on a 15-year mortgage, switching to a 30-year loan can save you hundreds of dollars monthly. Check out this comparison calculator to see your particular scenario.

    If youre in an area that is declining and cant refinance by traditional means, check out a HARP refinance. "The Home Affordable Refinance Program HARP through the U.S government may be the answer to your financial woes.

    According to the HARP fact sheet, if you dont qualify for a conventional refinance, a program through HARP may help lower your mortgage payments through refinancing to a lower rate or a more stable mortgage product," they said

    Check out the HARP website for qualification information.

    Buy Down Your Rate

    If youre just buying a home, your lender may have already talked to you about buying down your rate. If you can swing it, a little more money upfront for a lower interest rate can save you money. Sometimes, your lender might also be able to help you buy down you rate.

    "You can typically purchase one discount point for one percent of the cost of your mortgage, with most lenders limiting you to the purchase of three points," according to U.S. Mortgage Calculator. "Each point will reduce your rate by 0.125 to 0.25 percent, for the life of your loan. That can mean some serious savings and a modest reduction in your monthly payment."

    Monthly principal and interest on a 300,000 mortgage at a 4.27 percent conventional rate is 1479.34. Buying down the rate by one point to 4.02 percent lowers the payment to and the payment to 1435.70.

    Get a Tenant

    Have an extra room, preferably one in a private location with its own entry? Take on a roommate or a border and collect some rent.

    According to US News, renting is an effective way to solve a cash flow problem. "When people cant afford to buy homes, they rent. More demand means you can get more for your spare room," they said.

    To see more advantages, visit US News.

    Full Story >

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    Updated: Friday, March 06, 2015

    Why Rates Remain Deliciously L...
    The Mortgage Bankers Association announced in late February that housing is poised for stron...

    A Clean Home Is a Happy Home: ...
    Maintaining a clean and orderly home can seem like an impossible endeavor. Crumbs litter kit...

    Copyright ©2015Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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