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No Place Like Home

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

12 Questions You’ll Wish You Asked Before You Moved In

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team
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 agent, 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: The "Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® pegs the median national cost of an asphalt roofing replacement at $7,500.

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. Ask 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.

#5 Any Paranormal or Nefarious Activity?

Maybe for the sake of party conversation, you're hoping the answer is yes. Regardless, ask.

Haunted houses fall into the category of what real estate pros call "stigmatized houses" -- homes that have been the site of happenings like:

  • Ghost sightings and other paranormal activity
  • A murder or suicide
  • A death due to an accident or unusual disease
  • A meth lab
Again, real estate disclosures aren't consistent. About half of all states have disclosure requirements for stigmatized houses, although most don't include ghosts.

If the seller reveals the house to be stigmatized, you'll have negotiating power. A stigmatized house generally sells for 10% to 25% below market value.

A meth lab carries the risk of residual toxic chemicals. If you suspect that kind of sordid history but it's not being disclosed, you can check old news accounts or ask the local police for records of arrest.

You'll want to ask the seller and your real estate agent directly if you're concerned about ghosts and ghouls, and check your local real estate laws to get the local lowdown on disclosing paranormal activity.

#6 What are Monthly Utility Costs?

You can't get away from paying utilities, so know what your monthly budget is up against. Be sure to get an average cost -- not the lowest monthly bill -- and ask when peak months are.

While you're at it, ask what kind of energy sources your house appliances use -- gas, electric, propane, or a combination. That'll help you understand where you might upgrade to energy-efficient appliances to save energy costs.

Remember that energy savings starts with the simplest of tasks, like sealing air leaks.

#7 Has the Sewer Ever Backed Up?

As properties age and trees and other plants get bigger, roots find their way into sewer lines between a house and the street, causing clogs. It's a mess for sure, and most homeowner insurance policies don't cover damage from backed-up sewers.

Plan to have the sewer line cleared (about $150) every other year.

For $40 to $50 per year, you can add an endorsement to your insurance policy to cover damage from a backed-up sewer.

#8 Is There Documentation on Warranties?

If the previous owners were conscientious enough to stash warranties and appliance manuals, be sure to get them.

If you get the paperwork, look for purchase dates on major appliances, so you'll know how old they are and when they might decide to poop out. If you're ready to upgrade, you can I.D. which appliances are least energy efficient and target those first.

Tip: Keep all warranty cards and product manuals yourself. If you decide to sell, those records show you care about your house and become a marketing asset.

#9 How Much Insulation Is in the Attic?

After sealing air leaks and weatherstripping around doors and windows, adding insulation is one of the best ways to gain efficiency and keep your house cozy.

Knowing how much insulation you have lets you decide if an investment in more insulation is worth the cost. In colder regions, for example, a $1,500 attic insulation upgrade from R-11 to R-49 saves about $600 per year in energy costs, and you'll see a payback in about three years.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends adding more insulation if the thickness of your attic insulation is less than 11 inches (R-30).

Is the previous owner unsure? Peek in the attic. If the attic floor is insulated and you can see the tops of the ceiling joists, you should budget an insulation upgrade. If insulation was installed between the roof rafters -- and you can see the edges of the rafters -- you can beef up the insulation by covering over the rafters with rigid insulating foam board.

#10 How Big is the Water Heater?

To avoid a family rebellion, make sure your water heater is big enough to cover the needs of your household.

Most water heaters have a life expectancy of about 13 years. A new high-efficiency water heater costs $900 to $2,000, depending on the size and model you choose.

#11 When Was the Last Time the Septic Tank Was Pumped?

A typical septic system should be pumped every three to five years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Association. But the number of people in the house can affect that recommendation. We like this chart from septic installer Van Delden in San Antonio, showing about how often (years) you should pump based on capacity. A pumping costs $200 to $300.

#12 Will My SUV Fit in the Garage?

It's a fairly common doh! moment, says Sacramento, Calif., REALTOR® Elizabeth Weintraub. "Many garages are too low to accommodate the height of a big, newer vehicle."

Cabinets and workbenches can shorten overall garage space, too, making length an issue.

With full-size SUVs and trucks nearing 20 feet in length and almost 7 feet tall when equipped with a roof rack, sizing up the garage space is a good idea before you buy.

Worst case: You buy without checking and come sailing happily home for the first time to discover -- too late -- your Chevy Suburban is too tall to fit in the garage.

Knowing everything you can about your home gives you a leg up on surprises, lets you budget smartly, and gives you royal satisfaction with your new castle.

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

How Soon Can You Sell A House After Buying?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team
By: Larissa Runkle

They don't call it a forever home for nothing. Most of us buy with the intent of staying a long time—sometimes indefinitely. But here's the rub: Things change. Life takes us in a different direction, or the house you fell in love with only a few short months ago somehow becomes your biggest regret. Maybe the neighborhood is changing, or financial difficulties are making it impossible to enjoy your new home.

Whatever the reason, you just might find yourself asking, “How soon can I sell this house?”—mere months after you moved in.

But then there's that pesky five-year rule that everyone cites. Basically, it says you should never even consider selling until you’ve lived in the home for at least five years. And it's not arbitrary—there’s good reason for it.

“Unless it's a superhot market, a seller likely won't even recoup their transaction costs if they sell within a few years of buying,” says James McGrath, real estate broker and co-founder of Yoreevo.

McGrath, like many real estate professionals, even advises clients to avoid buying a house unless they plan on staying for at least five years, which is the typical amount of time it takes to break even on your initial investment.

But rules are meant to be broken as needed, and sometimes your situation actually requires you to break them. Here are three times you should say to heck with it all and get out of that house.

Exception No. 1: Your property value goes way up

Sometimes the market is so white-hot that it seems like property values jump overnight. This would definitely qualify as one of those times you can get away with ignoring the five-year rule and selling your home, even if you haven’t been in it for long.

But a lot depends on where you plan to go next. Moving to a lower-cost metro? You’re golden. Staying in the same area? You might not be able to get into a nicer place, or end up paying more money for a home much like the one you currently own. Look around and run the numbers carefully.

Also, keep in mind this tactic works only if the profit you make from the sale is really significant—otherwise you might see it eaten up by closing costs and a little thing called capital gains tax.

“Selling a home after owning it for less than a year generates a short-term capital gains tax,” says Denver real estate agent Alex Kishinevsky. “In this scenario, any equity you have accumulated from the sale is subject to taxation as ordinary income, according to the IRS.”

Exception No. 2: The neighborhood is going downhill

A bad neighborhood is bad news, and if there's a clear downward trend, you'd best get ahead of it. A declining neighborhood could ruin your chances of a profitable sale in the future.

Neighborhoods can start spiraling downward for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when something new gets built—or destroyed—and disrupts the quality of life. We’re talking about malls, prisons, factories, and more.

“How far away are you from the lights and noise it produces? Are citizens concerned about possible pollutants?" asks Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. "Are town hall meetings getting volatile? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be smart to sell early and take a small loss, versus stay and lose your shirt.”

Whatever is changing your neighborhood’s landscape, ask yourself if it devalues your home. If the answer is yes, break the five-year rule and get out.

Exception No. 3: You really hate living there

Although we keep harping on it, making a profitable sale isn’t the only important thing when it comes to deciding where to live and for how long. Your happiness is also significant. If you really, really hate where you live, then you might just need to get out—regardless of the cost.

Depending on your mortgage and home insurance policy, you might even consider turning the house into an investment property. A lot of homeowners choose to rent out their homes when the market is less than stellar but they want to stop living there.

“Allow someone else to pay your mortgage and grow your net worth,” says Seattle real estate agent Tyler Kirages.

No matter why you’re considering breaking the five-year rule, always keep in mind that listing isn’t the same thing as selling.

"Put it up and see what you can get,” Ross says. “Just because you list doesn't mean you have to sell. Explore your options by finding real values in a possible deal, and do it if it makes sense."

Can You Afford That House?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

By: Mary Beth Storjohann, Workable Wealth

If you’re considering purchasing a home, you’ve likely already considered how much you have available for a down payment, what an ideal mortgage payment would be, and how much home you can actually afford based on your monthly income. But what about your lifestyle?

Have you considered how much wiggle room you need to leave in your home budget to enjoy life? Here are six life factors to consider when buying a home:

#1 Travel
Travel is an important goal for many people. Think about the travel goals you have for yourself:

  • Where do you want to go?
  • What do you want to see?
  • How long are your ideal trips?
  • How much money would you need on an annual basis to make your travel goals possible?
  • Is this already factored into your budget or will you need to cut back on travel to fund your monthly mortgage payment and home expenses?

There are no right or wrong answers, but it’s important to reflect on your priorities.

#2 Green Thumb?
Do you love gardening, being outside, and all things landscaping? If you purchase a home with a lawn and don’t enjoy the upkeep, you could be looking at an extra $100 or more a month for professional landscape maintenance. Are you willing to skip the lawn in favor of hardscaping to reduce costs?

Bottom line: Factor hobbies and services into your monthly budget to see if the numbers still work out in the black.

#3 Pool Time
How dreamy would it be to buy a home with a pool!? Before the dream becomes reality, add up the costs of pool maintenance and servicing, energy, and insurance (along with liability if you have small children) and you may be better off heading to the neighborhood swimming hole.

Pools can be a lot of fun, but they come with a lot of work. Factor time and money into your future plans when buying a home with this special feature and, once again, ask yourself if the numbers add up to support your other financial goals.

#4 Children
If you’re buying a home and plan to start a family in the next few years, don’t just consider the amount of mortgage you can afford under your current expenses. Factor in daycare costs and then determine what your cash flow will look like. You may have to adjust the amount of home you’re looking to purchase.

#5 Entertainment
Chances are you enjoy dining out, going to concerts and sporting events, and seeing movies. If you need to rein in these activities to make room for your mortgage, home expenses, and savings, aim to strike a balance that won’t leave you feeling restless.

After all, you’re likely choosing a 30-year mortgage, and three decades is a long time to feel deprived. If necessary, reduce the amount of home you purchase so you can enjoy yourself in the ways that are important to you.

#6 Retirement
If you’re in your 20s, you should try to save 10% of your income; in your 30s, you should be saving 15%. If you need to cut back on your retirement savings to make a home purchase work, think hard about when you’ll be able to get back to your ideal contribution levels and how much you may be losing out on during that time.

Although home ownership can help build long-term wealth, it’s important to also maintain retirement savings for future security.

 

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash.com

Breaking Down The Break In

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

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The Rain Team
CA# 01169588 | CA# 01125976 | CA# 01908304
248 Main Street, Suite 200
Half Moon Bay CA 94019
Michael: 650-888-6361
Kathy: 650-888-6903
Fax: 866-396-0207

Kathy and Michael Rain of Coldwell Banker provides real estate services in the San Mateo County, California area including the surrounding communities: El Granda, Half Moon Bay, Montara, Moss Beach, Pacifica and San Mateo. Search for homes in San Mateo County. We list and sell residential real estate, investment properties, vacant land, lots for sale in the San Mateo County, California area.

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Kathy Rain - CA BRE# 01169588 | Michael Rain - CA BRE# 01125976 | Coldwell Banker - CA BRE# 01908304  

Email: therainteam@coastal-realestate.com
Cell Phone: (650) 888-6903 * Direct Phone: (650) 712-0411
San Mateo County Real Estate and Homes for Sale

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