Six Key Factors That Affect the Sales Price of Your Home

 

Pricing a home for sale is not nearly as simple as most people think. You can’t base the price on what the house down the street sold for. You can’t depend on tax assessments. Even automatic valuation methods (AVMs), while useful for a rough estimate of value, are unreliable for purposes of pricing a home for sale.

AVMs, like those used by Zillow and Eppraisal, have been used for many years by banks for appraisal purposes. They are derived from algorithms based on past sales. But producers of AVMs agree that they are not accurate indicators of home value. For example, Zillow.com states, “Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for. It is not an appraisal.”

So what does Zillow recommend sellers do instead? The same thing the real estate industry has been advising for decades: Ask a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood to provide you with a comparative market analysis. To accomplish that, I typically consider the following factors—plus others, depending on the house:

 

Location

The location of your home will have the biggest impact on how much it can sell for. Identical homes located just blocks apart can fetch significantly different prices based on location-specific conditions unique to each, including: traffic, freeway-access, noise, crime, sun exposure, views, parking, neighboring homes, vacant lots, foreclosures, the number of surrounding rentals, access to quality schools, parks, shops, restaurants and more.

Recommendation: Be willing to price your house for less if it’s located in a less desirable area or near a neighborhood nuisance.

 

Market

Another major factor that also can’t be controlled is your local housing market (which could be quite different from the national, state or city housing markets). If there are few other homes on the market in your local area (a situation known as a “sellers market”), you may be able to set a higher price. However, if there’s a surplus of homes like yours for sale (a “buyer’s market”), your pricing will also reflect that.

Recommendation: If it’s a buyer’s market and you can delay selling your home until things change, you should consider doing so. If you can’t wait, be willing to price your home extremely competitively, especially if you are in a hurry to sell.

 

Condition

The majority of buyers are not looking to purchase fixer-uppers, which is why any deferred maintenance and repair issues can also significantly impact the selling price of your home. When your home’s condition is different than the average condition of homes in your location, AVMs tend to produce the widest range of error.

Recommendation:  Hire a professional home inspector to provide you with a full, written report of everything that needs upgrading, maintenance or repair, then work with your real estate agent to prioritize the list and decide what items are worth completing before the property is listed for sale, and what should be addressed through a lower list price. Also, some defects are best addressed during negotiations with buyers.

 

Widespread appeal

If you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money, you have to make it as appealing as possible to the largest pool of prospective buyers. The more universally attractive it is, the greater the interest and the faster competing offers will come.

Recommendation:

Hire a professional home stager (not a decorator) to temporarily stage the interior of your home. Also spend time making the exterior look its best: address any peeling paint, make sure the front door/ door hardware is attractive, prune bushes and trees, remove old play equipment and outdoor structures, etc.

 

Compare homes

The only neighboring homes that should be used to estimate the value of your home are those that have been carefully selected by a real estate professional with special training, access to all sales records, and in-depth knowledge of the neighborhood.

Recommendation: If you’re considering selling your home, ask your real estate agent to recommend a professional appraiser.

 

Searchability

When working with a prospective buyer, most real estate agents will search the available inventory only for the homes priced at (or less than) their client’s maximum, which is typically a round number. If you home is priced slightly above or below that amount (e.g., $510,000 or $495,000), it will appear in fewer buyer searches.

Recommendation: Be willing to adjust your selling price to maximize visibility.

 

Periodic price adjustments

Pricing a home isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposal. As with any strategy, you need to be prepared to adapt to fast-changing market conditions, new competition, a lack of offers and other outside factors.

Recommendation: After listing your house, be ready to adjust your asking price, if necessary.

Relocating Your Home to Advance Your Career

 

Many of us dream of getting a better job. But when a promotion or new job opportunity comes with a request to relocate, the result can be very disruptive to your home life. There’s a lot to consider when making this kind of move, such as do you have a home to sell? Are you planning to rent or buy when you relocate? Is your employer covering some of the costs of your relocation? Should you hire a moving company or handle the move yourself? Following is an overview of some of the most important factors you should take into consideration when relocating.

 

Assessing the situation

The idea of moving to a new area and into a new job can be very exciting, but you’ll want to assess the situation carefully:

  • Do your best to make sure the job is a good fit, the boss is a good personality match (and plans to stay long-term), and that you’ll be comfortable in your new role for at least three years.
  • Meet with a human resources manager to make sure you understand all the details of the relocation package.
  • Thoroughly research your destination to ensure it’s a good fit for your entire family, and that there are other potential employers in the area in the event your new job doesn’t work out.
  • Use one of the online cost-of-living calculators to determine if there’s a significant difference between what you pay now (for rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, gas, insurance, and more) and what you can expect to pay in the new location.
  • If your spouse works or is planning to enter the workforce, he or she should apply for jobs in the area to test the employment conditions.
  • Ask your real estate agent to perform a detailed market analysis to estimate the value of your current home.
  • If you live in an apartment, review your lease carefully to determine if you are facing any penalties for moving out.

 

Renting versus buying

Once you have made the decision to relocate it’s time to consider your housing options—not only where you live and what type of home you want to live in, but whether to rent or buy.

 

Financially speaking, it makes more sense to buy today than to rent in most markets. According to the latest research on the subject, it costs 15 percent less to own a home than to rent an apartment in the current economy. That said, renting may be a better option if:

  • You can’t decide where you want to live.
  • You don’t qualify for a home loan.
  • You need to keep your current home and can’t afford a second home.
  • You’re moving to an area where home prices are extremely high (e.g., New York City, San Francisco, Orange County).
  • You’re not yet certain whether you’ll want to stay long-term in the new location.

 

Moving your belongings

Fewer and fewer companies are offering to pay employee moving costs today, which means it may be up to you to arrange for one of the following options:

  • Hire out the entire process (the moving company does all the packing, loading, driving, and unloading). Expect to pay between $6,000 to $8,000, on average.
  • You pack all the boxes while the moving company does all the loading, driving and unloading. Expect to pay between $3,500 and $5,500, on average.
  • You rent a truck and do all the packing/unpacking and driving. Expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000, on average.

 

Making the move easier

Relocating can be exhilarating, but also extremely stressful—especially if you have school-age children or teens. Here are four tips to make the process easier:

  • Get everyone in the family talking about their feelings and concerns. And make sure you’re doing as much listening as talking.
  • If you have children, include them in the planning and packing work to make them feel more involved. You may want to hold a going-away party for your children, to show that the move is worth celebrating.
  • If you have pets, ask your veterinarian, your moving company, and your airline (if you’ll be flying) to provide you with information, tips and any regulations.
  • To protect yourself from identity theft, only work with trustworthy moving companies; submit a change-of-address form to the post office about two weeks before your move; consider moving financial records and other personal files yourself.

 

Last year, the overwhelming majority of people (77 percent) who decided to move for work reported they were happy and had no regrets. 

8 Ways Your Kitchen Renovations Could Break Your Budget

When you begin planning a kitchen renovation project, you may have no idea how much your ideal vision might cost. The answer will likely depend on several factors, including the size of your space, what you will do to it, and your budget. In the end, the price of a renovation should largely be driven by your own choices.

That said, there are some common reasons kitchen renovations go over the original budget. We asked three kitchen designers to tell us what they most commonly see.

 

Kitchen Reno 1: Original chart on Houzz

 

The No. 1 reason that renovation projects (all projects, not just kitchens) go over budget is owners choosing more upscale products and finishes, according to a recent survey of 120,000 registered Houzz users, including 70,000 who renovated in 2015. Nearly half of those who went over their budget cited this as a reason.

About 40 percent of those who busted their budgets said finding out that products or services were more expensive than anticipated was the culprit, according to the survey. Given that this was a such common experience, we’d like to flag some areas where costs can rack up quickly.

 

Kitchen Reno 2: Santarossa Mosaic & Tile Co Inc, original photo on Houzz

 

Upgraded Finishes

1. Custom cabinetry. Cabinet costs range widely, largely depending on whether they come from a big-box store or are semi-custom or custom-made. Stock cabinets typically cost $50 per linear foot, while custom cabinetry can run up to $2,000 per linear foot.

The key is to know how much the designs you want might cost before you actually start to renovate. Keep in mind that specialty and custom items usually cost more. For example, it may look beautiful to stretch your upper cabinets to 12 feet to balance out high ceilings. But with this design, “you’ve almost quadrupled the cost because your standard cabinet doesn’t go to 12 feet. Now you’re doing super-custom cabinets,” says Tanner Luster, owner of Luster Custom Homes & Remodeling in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ask your architect, designer or general contractor to advise you on the costs of various options early. If you’re acting as your own general contractor and hiring individual tradespeople directly, you can discuss cost upfront with them before you finalize your plan.

2. Special features. In addition to the external features of cabinets, the innards can increase the cost. Examples of nice-to-have but pricey cabinetry add-ons include a magic corner, where pullout shelves provide access to a hidden portion of a cabinet that you otherwise couldn’t reach, a knife drawer, or spice or wine racks. “There are so many things you can add to cabinetry. You can add $10,000 or $15,000,” says Matthew Ferrarini of Ferrarini Kitchens, Baths & Interiors in Philadelphia. “Before you know it, your cabinetry costs significantly higher than you want.”

Before committing to a special feature, you may want to consider how much you’ll really use it. That way, you can determine if the added functionality is worth the cost to you.

 

Kitchen Reno 3: Echelon Custom Homes, original photo on Houzz

 

3. Countertops. The cost for countertops ranges widely. Plastic laminate countertops are relatively affordable at $8 to $20 per square foot. Quartz and granite typically run much higher, anywhere from $50 to $120 per square foot. “If you haven’t purchased a countertop in 20 years and you go from a laminate to a Cambria or a quartz or a granite,” be sure you look into the cost of the various options, advises Judy Kimble, marketing manager at Gerhard’s Kitchen & Bath Store in Madison, Wisconsin.

4. Appliances. Appliances also range widely in cost, from under $1,000 to several thousand, depending on the make, model and features. Luxury appliances like Wolf and Sub-Zero are priced on the higher end of the range, and brands like GE are more budget. A Sub-Zero refrigerator could cost upward of $7,500, while a basic GE model from Sears could cost under $500. A Miele gas range could run $7,000, and a premium 60-inch model from La Cornue more than twice that. An Asko dishwasher could cost more than $1,000, whereas some LG models sell at just $450.

These prices are examples and not meant to be all-encompassing; the point is that appliances have a huge range. “A Viking range versus a GE Profile could be a $10,000 to $15,000 difference,” Ferrarini says. Kimble, the Wisconsin kitchen store manager who appreciates luxury appliances, says she was once quoted $38,000 for an entire kitchen suite. Do your research and find out what you get for the various cost ranges so that you can determine if the price of the features is worth the expense for your family.

 

Kitchen Reno 4: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

Hidden Costs That Can’t Be Avoided

Beyond the costs that the owner controls by selecting finishes and materials are the costs resulting from structural problems that simply must be resolved.

5. Unforeseen structural issues. You might open a wall and find that termites have eaten half the studs. Perhaps once the kitchen flooring is removed, you find that an undetected water leak has rotted the subfloor and floor joists. Or, as shown in this picture from a real Houzzer’s kitchen renovation project, you might discover a faulty ceiling. “Our only unexpected expense was when the kitchen ceiling partially collapsed while our contractor was cutting holes for the can lights,” writes Houzzer Susan Hofer. “Bought the house new 37 years ago and the collapse exposed some very poor construction.”

Such unforeseen issues are good incentives to do pre-project due diligence. Even so, not every problem can be caught ahead of time. Many designers recommend reserving a 20 percent contingency in your kitchen renovation budget for unexpected surprises.

6. Code compliance. Pete Gersdorf, owner of Aim Kitchen and Bath in Des Moines, Iowa, has faced code issues on some kitchen remodels. For example, when a new gas range is a high-BTU unit, a larger gas pipe may need to be installed — which entails opening up the wall and replacing the pipe. He has seen plumbing vent issues when the original sink plumbing was not correctly installed. “We [have] also found ceiling joists or floor joists not built correctly and had to replace them to meet current standards and or codes,” Gersdorf says.

Related: Kitchen of the Week: Connected, Open Oregon Remodel

 

Kitchen Reno 5: Studio William Hefner, original photo on Houzz

 

Let’s Just Call It ‘Bloat’

The final category of reasons that kitchen renovations go over budget is basically entirely within your control.

7. Changing your mind. For your contractor to accurately predict the project cost, it’s a good idea to select all your finishes before the construction work starts. “If you haven’t picked them out, invariably it will be more money. Two, it will take more time. And three, it will mess up the schedule — which will also cost more money,” says Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, which has worked with more than 250 clients since 2003.

Changing finishes or materials mid-project typically results in a change order, which can slow the timeline and increase the cost. “It might be a configuration of an island countertop we have decided on; they may not like it and want to change it,” says Gersdorf, the kitchen builder in Iowa. “Those things will definitely add to the cost.”

Even when they know making a change will add to the cost, some homeowners will still want to change the plans midway. In fact, this was the third most common reason kitchen budgets got blown, according to the survey of registered Houzzers.

8. Mission creep. This is the term for what happens when your kitchen renovation is looking amazing … and suddenly you decide you want to also redo the trim on the living room and dining room, and put in all new doors. “Suddenly your mission has expanded a little bit,” Gersdorf says. “That’s probably the No. 1 place where we see their budget get blown out more.”

 

Kitchen Reno 6: Original chart on Houzz

 

What Does a Typical Kitchen Renovation Cost, Anyway?

While it’s helpful to know some common reasons why kitchen renovation budgets expand, it could also be useful to know how much kitchen renovations typically cost. According to a Houzz survey of nearly 2,500 homeowners who were renovating or had recently renovated their kitchens, about one-third of owners spent between $25,000 and $50,000. Another one-third spent more than $50,000. These are national averages. The cost for you will depend on costs in your area. Typically costs on the coasts are more expensive than in the middle part of the country.

Costs also depend on the type of project, as well as the size of the room. A major kitchen overhaul, which includes at least replacing all the cabinets and appliances, costs about three times as much as a minor, or more superficial, kitchen renovation.

 

Kitchen Reno 7: Original chart on Houzz

 

How Often Do Renovation Budgets Get Blown?

Finally, a note about renovation budgeting. If you stay on budget, you will fall among the approximately one-third of Houzzers surveyed who renovated last year (all projects, not just kitchens) who also did. A little less than one-third exceeded their budget. Just 3 percent came in under budget.

 

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz

How the American Home has Evolved

 

Owning a home has been an American tradition from the start. But the home itself has changed dramatically over the years.

For example, you may be surprised to learn how much the size of the average American home has increased since the turn of the 20th century—especially when you compare it to the size of the average family during the same time period.

In the year 1900, the average American family was relatively large with 4.6 members, but the average home featured just 1,000 square feet of usable floor space. By 1979, family size had shrunk to 3.11 members, but the floor space they shared had expanded to 1,660 square feet. And by 2007, the average family size was even smaller still—just 2.6 members—while the average home size had increased by the largest amount yet—this time to 2,521 square feet.

To accommodate those larger homes, property lots have also had to expand in size. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Bungalow homes were usually built on lots measuring 60 by 100 feet (for a total of 6,000 square feet). However, by 1976, the average size of a single-family property lot had expanded to more than 10,000 square feet. In 1990, it expanded again (to 14,680 square feet). Today, the average property lot in America is a staggering 17,590 square feet.

Exterior building materials

Until the 1960s, the building materials used on the exterior of most homes were limited to brick, wood, or wood shingles. However, by the early 1960s, many Americans chose to cover their homes with a more affordable material that was also maintenance-free: aluminum and vinyl siding. Today, many homeowners are using low-maintenance siding materials made of cement fiber.

Interior building materials

The primary building material for interior ceilings and walls for much of the 20th century was plaster applied over wood lathe. Modern day sheetrock didn’t become popular until the 1950s. In the 1960s, wood paneling and textured walls became prevalent, largely for their quick and easy application. In the 1970s and ‘80s, “popcorn ceilings” became a common way to hide imperfections in ceilings. Today’s style again favors smooth walls and ceilings, which can result in a lot of work removing paneling and textures in older homes. 

Throughout the early 1900s, the floors throughout most homes were almost always bare wood. Linoleum tile became a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms in the 1940s. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, wall-to-wall carpeting was all the rage—even in bathrooms and some kitchens. Homes today feature a wide array of flooring materials, depending on both the region and the room’s function. For example, tiles are a more popular choice in warm regions than cold ones because they tend to stay cool; wall-to-wall carpeting is still popular in rooms like bedrooms and family rooms, where people like to feel most comfortable, while durable and easy-to-clean hardwoods, tiles and linoleum are more favorable in kitchens and high-traffic areas.

The Kitchen

At the turn of the 20th century, the kitchen was a place where the woman of the house did all the cooking. Kitchens were typically small, closed off from the rest of the house by solid walls, and far more functional than fashionable. Dining took place in the dining room.

Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, kitchens remained stark workplaces with very few appliances. Food was kept chilled with an icebox (a non-electric, insulated box about the same size as a modern refrigerator that used a block of ice to keep everything cold). However, by 1944, 85 percent of American households had switched from an icebox to a refrigerator.

In the mid 1950s, the kitchen changed dramatically. It not only became larger, it also transformed into the heart of the home, where the whole family gathered to help prepare and even eat meals. 

The 1950s also brought a host of kitchen innovations, from the stainless steel sink to electric ovens and stovetops. But the most exciting of all was the dishwasher. The 1970s marked the introduction of the microwave.

Today, the kitchen is still a place where everyone gathers. So it’s not surprising that may people favor open-concept kitchens, with no walls separating them from the dining or family room.

Appliance and amenities

The 1940s census was the first to ask homeowners about some of the amenities in their homes. The results are startling (though perhaps less so when you consider that this was during the depression): Less than 50 percent of homes had hot water, an indoor toilet or a bath tub; about one in five didn’t have a home phone.

By the 1950s, however, things had changed dramatically for the better. That’s when many Americans got a refrigerator, an electric stove, a dishwasher, and, ah yes, air conditioning. Until then, most homes were cooled with nothing more than a ceiling fan at best.

Thanks to the larger, Ranch-style homes being constructing in the 1950s, walk-in closets also made their introduction. The fabulous ‘50s also ushered in the two-car attached garage.

And let’s not forget the television; it exploded onto the scene in the early 1950s and by 1955, half of all U.S. households had sets. Today, the average home has little less than three TVs.

What hasn’t changed

Despite all these changes, one thing has remained the same: The number one reason why Americans chose to buy a home. According to Dan McCue, research manager at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, “It’s always been seen as the best way to build net worth and equity.”

Why So Many Americans Are Either Upsizing or Downsizing

 

According to two recent surveys that took industry watchers by surprise, many family homeowners are putting frugality aside and upsizing to new houses that average as large as 2,480 square feet (an increase of as much as 13 percent from the year before), and sometimes exceed 3,500 square feet in size.

Meanwhile, millions of baby boomer homeowners are rushing to downsize—with some 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 saying they’re planning to make a move within the next five years.

It’s a tale of two very different segments of the population making dramatic shifts in their living accommodations to find the housing solutions that best suit their needs: one upsizing while the other downsizes.

With so many baby boomers now nearing retirement age (8,000 Americans turn 65 every day), it should come as no surprise that the number of prospective “downsizers” exceed the number of “upsizers” by three to one. With their children gone, these aging homeowners are interested in reducing the amount of house they need to care for, and are eager to bulk up their retirement savings with any home-sale profits.

As for why many families are choosing to upsize so substantially after years of downsizing or staying put, experts point to the extremely low interest rates and discounted home prices available today, and theorize that many families now feel confident enough about the economy to move out of homes they outgrew years ago.

If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, here are some facts to consider:

 

How such a move can impact your life

The most common benefits of downsizing:

  • Lower mortgage payments
  • Lower tax bills
  • Lower utility bills
  • Less maintenance (and lower maintenance expenses)
  • More time/money for travel, hobbies, etc.
  • More money to put toward retirement, debts, etc. (the profits from selling your current home)

 

The most common benefits of upsizing

  • More living space
  • More storage space
  • More yard/garden space
  • More room for entertaining/hosting friends and family

 

Negative impacts:

  • Upsizing will likely increase your living expenses, so it’s important to factor into any financial forecasts
  • Downsizing will require that you make some hard choices about what belongings will need to be stored or sold

 

Other impacts to consider:

  • The loss of good neighbors
  • Lifestyle changes (walking, neighborhood shopping, etc.)
  • The effect on your work commute
  • Public transit options

 

Buy first, or sell first?

Homeowners considering this transition almost always have the same initial question: “Should I buy the new home now, or wait and sell my current place first?” The answer is dependent on your personal circumstances. However, experts generally recommend selling first.

Selling your current home before buying a new one could mean you have to move to temporary quarters for some period of time—or rush to buy a new home. That could prove stressful and upsetting. However, if you instead buy first, you could be stuck with two mortgages, plus double property tax and insurance payments, which could quickly add up to lasting financial troubles.

If you need to sell in order to qualify for a loan, there’s no choice: You’ll have to sell first.

 

Another option:

You could make the purchase of the new house contingent on selling your current home. However, this approach can put you in a weak bargaining position with the seller (if you can even find a seller willing to seriously consider a contingency offer). Plus, you may be forced to accept a low-ball offer for your current house in order to sell it in time to meet the contingency agreement timing.

The truth is, most home sales tend to take longer than the owners imagine, so it’s almost always best to finalize the sale, and do whatever is necessary to reap the biggest profit, before embarking on the purchase of your new home.

 

When to make the transition

Ideally, when you’re selling your home, you want to wait until the demand from potential buyers is high (to maximize your selling price). But in this case, because you’re also buying, you’ll also want to take advantage of any discounted interest rates and reduced home prices (both of which will fade away as the demand for homes grows).

How will you know when the timing is right to both sell and buy? Ask an industry expert: your real estate agent. As someone who has their finger on the pulse of the housing market every day, they can help you evaluate the current market and try to predict what changes could be coming in the near future.

Even if you’ve been through it before, the act of upsizing or downsizing can be complex. For tips, as well as answers to any questions, contact a Windermere agent any time. 

The Birdies – And Bogeys – Of Buying A Golf Course Home

 

Living on a golf course has obvious appeal to anyone who enjoys teeing up on a regular basis. In addition to having your next round of golf right outside your door, living on a golf course often affords you a view of a sprawling green vista. Many golf communities also feature newer homes and offer extra amenities such as spas, planned activities and more.

 

Yet for all their upsides, there are aspects of living on a golf course that might give you pause. They include:

 

Stray golf balls: The possibility of an airborne golf ball landing on you, your car or your home is a definite possibility when you’re living on a golf course. If you’re especially concerned about this, search for a home further away from the fairways. Also make sure you have the right insurance in place.

 

Noise from golf carts: You’ll want to check where the path for golf carts runs. If you’re close to a path, you’ll likely be subject to the noise of carts and people zipping by for a good part of each day.

 

Noise from the golf course: Things can get noisy if you’re very close to the course. This is especially true if your house borders a tee box. Another thing to consider is noise from groundkeepers. Courses are typically mowed very early in the morning. If your master bedroom faces out to the course, it’s likely your sleep could be interrupted by noise and headlights.

 

Deed restrictions: It’s common for golf communities to be regulated by a homeowners’ association in addition to having recorded CC&R’s that were designated upon the development of the community. A thorough review of the HOA Bylaws and the CC&R’s is very important.  If the either set of regulations will seriously hinder your quiet enjoyment of your own home, or place too much demand/control on structural improvements, paint colors, yard maintenance, etc. then you may want to just stick with your membership and live elsewhere.

#YourStoryIsOurStory: The Little Blue House

It’s tough being a first time home buyer, especially in a fiercely competitive market like Seattle where multiple offers are the norm. Windermere clients Haley and Yash experienced this first hand when they started shopping for a home. With the help of their agent Elsa Nunes-Ueno, they found and fell in love with “the little blue house”. It had everything they were looking for, including the potential for them to fix it up and make it their own. But other bidders and a steep price increase threatened to get in their way. Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, Elsa went to bat for her clients and came up with a creative approach to make Haley and Yash’s dream of the little blue house a reality.

 

Throughout the year we will be posting some of our favorite #YourStoryIsOurStory videos, photos, and blog posts. Please take a minute to share your experiences, and follow #YourStoryIsOurStory on our blogFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Pinterest pages.

 

How Long Is Your Contractor Liable?

Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.

But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.

How to Hire a Contractor

 

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

 

What Is a Warranty?

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.

The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.

“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.

At least in the ideal case.

 

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

 

The Law Governing Warranties

Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.

The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.

The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.

Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.

Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects, and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to design or construction of the building.

Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come see it and repair it.

To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.

 

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

 

The One-Year Warranty

The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.

Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.

The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.

But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”

 

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

 

Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty

Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.

In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.

If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.

If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.

“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”

Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.

Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”

 

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Going Beyond Warranties

Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”

 

More Ways to Protect Yourself

So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)

Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that are backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.

Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”

Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”

 

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz

Helping Children and Families Gear-up for Back to School

Getting your children prepared to go back to school is stressful enough. We all want to make sure that they are adequately prepared for the upcoming year. Now imagine that you also have to worry about how you’re going to pay for new clothing, shoes and school supplies—it can be quite overwhelming! Many parents just aren’t able to afford all of the back-to-school necessities.

 

Fortunately, there are community and school programs available that can help with that need. And at Windermere, we are proud to support a number of those organizations that help provide backpacks, school supplies, shoes, clothing, haircuts, and other back-to-school-related needs, through donations from the Windermere Foundation.

 

These are just a few examples of how our Windermere offices are helping children in their communities get a good start to the new school year.

 

The Windermere/Coeur d’Alene Realty, Inc. offices supplied backpacks full of school supplies for the KIDS Camp summer school program offered by the Coeur d’Alene School District at Fernan Elementary School. This program serves second and third grade students that have been behind grade level and are recommended by their teachers to attend camp. These classes give them a boost to catch up, and in most cases, get ahead! When Windermere first started supporting the program, there were only 12 kids. This year the number has grown to 57.At the end of the camp, each student receives a new backpack full of school supplies complements of the Windermere Foundation.

 

“It’s a wonderful program that we have been involved with for the last four years,” said Midge Smock, Windermere Foundation representative, Coeur d’Alene Realty, Inc. “The first two years we had agents adopt a backpack. This year, all supplies were purchased in bulk and agents sponsored a full backpack. These kids will be ready for school in the fall.”

 

The Windermere Mount Baker office has been assisting with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’s Project Cool back to school supply drive for the last four years. Each summer, the office holds a supply drive and then spends a morning organizing the backpacks for children that are experiencing homelessness. This year approximately 20 Windermere agents volunteered on July 9 to help organize and stuff the backpacks with supplies. These backpacks were then distributed to children in need through various social service organizations and homeless shelters.

 

The Windermere Seattle-Northgate, Seattle-Sand Point and Seattle-Wedgwood offices have been working with 10 elementary schools in their neighborhoods. With the help of principals, advisors, counselors and teachers, 236 children have been identified to be in need of backpacks and school supplies. Supplies include composition notebooks, reams of copy paper and wide rule paper, erasers, colored pencils, crayons, rulers, 3-ring binders, and much more. Supplies will be purchased through grants from the Windermere Foundation, assembled by Windermere brokers, and delivered to the specified schools.

 

The Windermere Bellevue Commons office is holding a backpack/school supply drive from July 26 through August 15 to support Congregations for Kids, which helps students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in the Bellevue School District. Over 25 agents will help with the effort. Last year, 1,525 students benefitted from their assistance.

 

The Windermere Las Vegas-Summerlin office is participating in the Communities In Schools (CIS) “Fill the Bus” back-to-school drive. This event will benefit over 58,000 students in 55 schools statewide that CIS of Nevada serves. This is the second year the office has participated. Last year they helped to fill five school buses with backpacks, uniforms and school supplies for all ages. This year they are hosting a collection drive at their office through August 11, and will bring their collected items to the drop off site on August 12.

 

A number of Windermere offices throughout our network will be collecting shoes August 1-8 for children in need as part of the Windermere Kicks for Kids shoe drive. Each office selects a local non-profit  to receive the donated shoes. One participating office is Windermere Mercer Island which is collecting shoes for Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter for women and children in Seattle, WA.  For the past three years, brokers from the Mercer Island office have participated in a back-to-school event at Mary’s Place, where children are paired with volunteers to select a pair of shoes and backpack for school.

 

 

If you’d like to help children in need in your community during the school year, or throughout the year, please consider donating to the Windermere Foundation. For the past 27 years, the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of the proceeds from every home purchased or sold towards supporting low-income and families in our communities. And generous donations from our Windermere owners, agents, staff, and the community continue to make Windermere Foundation grants possible.

 

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

 

6 Smart Home Gadgets Perfect for Summer Fun

 

Tell your friends and families to clear their weekend schedules throughout the entire summer—your house is the place to be for fun all season long.

 

If you sloughed through winter with visions of making your house the hangout spot of the summer, you’ll want to bookmark this page. We’re outlining the gadgets you’ll need on hand to turn your home into a modern entertaining destination!

 

1. Keyless Door Lock

No one wants to be kept inside on door duty when the party is in the backyard. Give trusted guests the freedom to enter on their own by installing a keyless door lock. By swapping a traditional key entry with one of the many keyless touchpad lock options, not only will you avoid always rummaging around the house itself searching for the keyring, you’ll also be able to create temporary codes to give to guests that unlock the front door. While they can come right in and enjoy the party, you won’t have to forfeit any sense of security, since those access codes can later be changed once the party’s over.

 

2. Smart Thermostat and Energy Monitor

You know the drill. When temperatures go soaring, the air conditioner plummets. However, there’s a better way to keep your home’s climate comfortable than constantly blasting cold air. Instead, opt for a smart thermostat that learns the heating and cooling patterns of your home and adjusts energy usage accordingly.

 

Install something like the Nest Learning Thermostat and you’ll not only get a better idea of how you’re currently using energy at home and how that affects your bills every month, but you’ll also have the option to control your cooling system with a smartphone app. Picture this: you ran out to the store for one more item before friends arrive, and you realize you didn’t turn on the air conditioning. Before you hop into the car, open the Nest app and tell it how cool you’d like the house to be by the time you return home.

 

3. Water-Resistant Bluetooth Speakers

While you’re hanging outside and listening to music, splashes and spills will happen, we can guarantee that. What can’t be guaranteed is whether the music will stop because of these splashes. Keep the tunes playing by arming your festivities with water-resistant speakers that won’t fritz out with the smallest splash. Plus, most portable speakers have Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll be able to keep the smartphone or tablet you’re streaming music through with you up to 30 feet before interfering with the connection range.

 

4. Party-Ready Lighting System

As the sun dips in the sky for the night, you have the perfect opportunity to showcase one of our favorite smart home gadgets—colorful and very intelligent lights! Creating ambient lighting does not involve black lights or scarves thrown over lamps anymore. The electronics brand Philips has made itself the leader in colorful solutions for relaxing at home that can also be synced across Wi-Fi systems. The Philips Hue family of products offers everything from movie theater-style light strips—how great would those look along window panes?—to long-lasting LED light bulbs that can be controlled via smartphone app and programmed to nearly infinite color combinations. Keep the party humming well into the night by getting creative with smart lighting’s endless color palette.

 

5. Smartphone-Controlled Irrigation and Watering System

In between traveling the world, splashing in the pool and catching up on a long list of reading material, the last thing you want to check off your to-do list in the hot summer months is tending to your garden. However, you don’t want all your hard work to turn into weeds or dry up from neglect.

 

To keep the yard looking in tip-top shape whatever your hosting or travel schedule may be, install a smart irrigation system in the backyard. Devices like the Rachio Iro Intelligent Irrigation Controller allows you to control your sprinkler system via its smartphone app. You could be in another state enjoying a friend’s backyard party and still turn your sprinklers on or off with a few taps of your phone. Look for other types of smart gardening sensors, specifically ones that can be inserted right into the soil, which will alert you when it’s time for a water refresh on the plant.

 

6. Security Camera

Of course, we’re going to have to add a touch of practicality to your gadget arsenal. With all those people streaming in and out of your house through a variety of entrances, accidents may happen and a door can be mistakenly left open. Create some peace of mind without helicoptering around the doors or your guests by installing a security camera on the exterior or interior of the house.

 

Choose a smart security camera option with Wi-Fi viewing to keep an eye on what’s happening in your house from the convenience of an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer browser. Indoor camera options are ideal for homes that have small children or pets that you may want to check in on from another room or when away for the day. Opt for an outdoor camera when it’s a crime deterrent you’re after or if there’s a pool or other item you’d like to monitor on your property.

 

Stock up on these tech gadgets and you’ll be ready to party all summer long.

 

Kelly Schwarze is a tech geek who writes about the latest gadgets and also provides tips on how to use them. She especially likes to give advice on how the new smart home technology and Security can be used to improve your live. To see a large selection of security cameras, Kelly mentions in this article, visit The Home Depot.