Things to Have in Order Before Hiring A General Contractor

Hiring a General Contractor

When you hire a general contractor to remodel your home, it’s helpful to know what to expect, so start with the design you want. Are you doing a complete remodel? Updating a kitchen or bathroom? Adding square footage or moving walls and plumbing will require professionals to ensure the project turns out the way you want.

If you hire an interior design firm, or kitchen design firm, the company will have excellent resources, including general contractors. The designer wants a seamless, trouble-free project as much as you do, so s/he knows which contractors to hire, what they’re especially good at, and who to avoid.

The general contractor is in charge of scheduling, hiring, material estimation and acquisition, tear out, installation, waste disposal, permits, and insurance. All of the sub-contractors and their workers will report to him or her.

Ask for references. Most clients are happy to tell others if they had a good experience, and they understand your need to check referrals. Certifications can indicate standards of professionalism and values. NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) offers the Certified Remodeler, Certified Remodeler Specialist, and Certified Lead Carpenter designations.

Hiring a general contractor can protect you by knowing the latest building codes and getting the proper building permits so your job is insurable by your homeowner’s insurance. The firm will also provide worker’s compensation to cover workers who might get injured on your property.

Make certain the scope of the work is detailed in the estimate, so you know what, when and where work will be done.

Painting Your Brick Exterior Can Help Freshen Your Home’s Appeal

painting your brick exterior

Have you considered painting your brick exterior?

The Brick Industry Association touts brick for its strength, energy efficiency and low maintenance, but sometimes brick can appear dated or downright ugly. Painting your brick exterior can go a long way toward updating your home.

Whether you choose to do the work yourself or hire a professional, the same steps, particularly careful preparation, should be followed.

Clean the bricks: Use a wire brush, soap and water to clean the bricks, or use a power washer. For hard to remove stains, you can mix water with phosphate-free trisodium phosphate (TSP). Use approximately one-half cup to a gallon of water. For mold, mix one-part bleach to three parts water and scrub with a wire brush.

Repair cracks and missing mortar: If you’re painting the brick for the first time, buy a premixed mortar patch, then caulk and seal any cracks in the brick as trapped moisture can cause paint to peel.

Use masonry primer before painting: Like TSP, latex masonry primer is made for hard surfaces like brick. Allow the primer to dry before you begin to paint. Apply two coats of paint for coverage, and wait for the first coat to dry before applying the second.

Best Ideas for Christmas Tree Disposal

Christmas Tree Disposal

You love having fresh Christmas trees, garlands and wreaths, but now the holiday season is over. Christmas Tree Disposal and decoration disposal should happen safely and responsibly, but how?

Most communities have drop-off locations for garlands and trees or they provide scheduled pick-up service. Call your community’s environmental service (city trash or yard debris service) and ask these questions:

  • When can you put your tree on the curb for pickup?
  • Do you need to put the tree in a bag? (You can find tree disposal bags at Home Depot or Lowes.)
  • Are there any size restrictions? (For example, the city of San Diego requires that trees over four feet in length be cut in half.)
  • Are there special disposal requirements for flocked or glitter-sprayed trees?

Your homeowner’s association may have regulations about tree disposals, so look at your covenants or call a board member for guidance.

If you’re eco-conscious, you can take your tree to your local county recycling center where it can be ground into chips for animal habitats or mulch.

Look for a local community group that may be sponsoring a tree removal fundraiser, such as the Boy Scouts. It will cost you a little more, but it’s all for a good cause. Check your local newspaper or official city website for other disposal options.

Before you take the tree outside, double-check for overlooked wire, tinsel, ornaments, hooks and lights. Don’t burn branches in the fireplace if the tree has any chemical retardants or preservatives.

Millennial Must-Haves

Millennial Must-Haves

Born between 1980 and 1995, the millennial generation is now prime home-buying age. With unemployment just over four percent and lenders touting low-cost loan programs for first-time buyers, more millennials are buying homes. So who are they and what do they want in a home?

As the most educated generation in history, millennials trust their own judgment. They know how to conduct research and make the best choices accordingly, and tend to be savvy consumers. Even the 66 percent who are first-time home buyers tend to know more about the housing market than previous generations.

According to the National Association of REALTORS,® forty-nine percent of homebuyers 36 years and younger have children under the age of 18, 66 percent are married couples, 17 percent are single women, and 13 percent are unmarried couples.

As they grow with their families, they seek homes built with quality materials and sustainability in mind. Eight-foot ceilings are back in vogue for this group, as they seek to downsize their ecological footprint.

Social media, technology and demographic shifts are pushing trends faster than any other time in history, says the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Millennials want clean, contemporary lines and many are willing to sacrifice space for style. Lack of ornamentation is significant and intentional, says the NAHB, so sellers marketing to millennials should clear away clutter and excess furniture.

Millennial home-buyers choose older homes for the lower prices, but they want them to be as close to new in appearance as possible.

Using Gifts as a Down Payment

Merry Christmas, homebuyer! Don’t cash Mom and Dad’s check yet! Your loan could be denied if the money isn’t carefully documented.

Why? Gifts can cause confusion. Is your parents’ money a gift or a loan? Unless the terms are clearly defined, don’t mix the gift with your own funds. It alters your bank statements and raises your income both of which could muddy your financial picture.

Lenders require a paper trail for all monies, so no phone deposits. They also limit the size of gifts in relationship to the total down payment. Some loan programs require the borrower to contribute at least 3%down payment gifts to 5% of the down payment if the down payment is less than 20%, while other programs allow the entire down payment to be supplied by a gift.

To avoid questions, provide a certified down payment gifts letter or sign an affidavit that explain:

  • The amount of the gift, accompanied by a corresponding cashier’s check, including a photocopy of the check
  • The name and address of the gift-giver and relationship the gift-giver has to the homebuyer
  • The purpose of the gift – to be used only as a down payment on the subject property, complete with the property’s address
  • A statement confirming that the gift is not a loan, and does not need to be repaid
  • Signatures of the borrower and the gift-giver

If you’re planning to use a gift as part or all of your down payment, ask your realtor how to meet all the appropriate requirements regarding down payment gifts.

Housing Forecast for 2018

There’s nothing like a new year to pump enthusiasm into your life, so what do the experts say about the housing forecast?

Unemployment remains low: Despite tens of thousands of people losing their homes as well as businesses and hospitality services crippled due to the storms, the unemployment rate remains at a low 4.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Buyers have the income to shop for homes.

New home construction lags 

Housing Forecast

demand: Due to costly governmental oversights, lack of skilled construction workers, and increased enforcement of undocumented workers, homebuilders are unable to meet demand for new homes, according to the U.S. Census. There’s currently five month’s worth of supplies at today’s rate of sales.

Millennials favor homeownership: Pew Research found that millennials are the largest living generation and are disproportionately renters compared with previous generations. As the generation matures (the oldest are at 34 years of age), seventy-two percent wish to become homeowners.

Demand is outpacing supply: According to Freddie Mac research, the hurricane season that hit the southern and eastern coastal areas, is exacerbating a market already short on homes, particularly in the affordable price ranges. Home prices are predicted to rise 4.9 percent.

Mortgage rates drop under four percent: Nationally, the average interest rates on conventional purchase-money mortgages decreased in the fall to less than four percent, reported the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Market conditions suggest near-term winter and spring homebuying will remain brisk. You might be encouraged to buy before the summer rush!

Why Homebuyers Pass Up Good Homes

Why Homebuyers Pass Up Good Homes

Selling your home takes hard work and commitment to get it ready to impress buyers. While you can’t control the market, you can control your home’s appeal. Don’t let the following reasons make buyers pass on purchasing your home.

  1. Price: If you price your home too high, the right buyers won’t see it, and the ones who do see it will quickly realize other homes in the same range Homebuyers offer more value.
  2. Clutter: If your tables are full to the edges with photos, figurines, mail and coffee cups, buyers will be more focused on trying not to break something than considering your home for purchase. Too much stuff makes it confusing for buyers to see the rooms clearly, so they’ll move on to a clearer choice.
  3. Deferred maintenance: Buyers really want a home that’s been well-maintained, so it’s your job as the homeowner to keep your home in good condition. You don’t want buyers wondering what needs fixing and at what cost.
  4. Outdated décor: The reason people are looking at your home instead of buying brand new is because of cost and location. They want your neighborhood but not a dated-looking home. Take popcorn ceilings and flocked wallpaper down. Replace carpet with an upgrade or perhaps hardwoods.
  5. Smells: There’s not a buyer in the world who will buy a home that smells like pets, dirt or water damage. If you get an offer at all, it will be low and contingent on a positive inspection.