Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Back to Basics: How to Replace a Toilet Seat

Replacing a toilet seat is one of the simplest home repair or improvement tasks you can do.  The only tool required is screwdriver and it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to remove the old toilet seat and lid and install a new one.   

Step by Step Instructions

Remove the old seat

 Step 1 – Find the screws.  With the lid closed look between the seat and the tank.  You should see two covers.  Lift the covers with the flat end of your screwdriver or some other flat tool such as a putty knife.  They may come off completely or may be on a hinge.

Step 2 – Loosen screws.  Under the cover (cap) you will see a screw.  The screw may be plastic or metal depending on the model. Using your screw driver, remove the screws.  You may need to use your other hand to hold the nut underneath from moving as you turn the screw.Step 3 - Remove the screws, nuts and the old seat.

Install the new seat

Step 1 – Place new seat on bowl. Place the new seat in place on the bowl making any necessary adjustments to line it up with the bowl.
Step 2 – Insert screws and install nuts. Insert the screws into the holes from the top and carefully install the nuts onto the bottom of the screws.  Do not tighten yet.
Step 3 – Tighten screws.  While hold the nuts in place, tighten the screws from above.  Be careful not to over tighten especially if you have metal screws going into plastic nuts.  You can easily strip the threads.
Step 4 – Snap the covers in place or install the covers provided with your toilet seat.

Tips for choosing a toilet seat. 

You can find a toilet seat that costs anywhere from $10 to $1200, yes you read that right $1200 specialty toilets seats are available.
What style do you need? For the typical homeowner there are 2 main types, rounded (shown in the pictures) and elongated.
What material do you prefer?  You can choose from molded wood, composite, plastic, soft or china.  The typical toilet seat found in most homes is either plastic or molded wood.  It really comes down to personal preference.
Other features to consider:
o   Quick release.  This feature allows for easy removal of the seat and lid for cleaning purposes.
o   Children’s toilet seat.  They make seats with an extra one that kids can use, great for potty training.
o   Elevated.  You can also buy elevated seats that help for older or disabled people who need a higher seat without having to buy a new toilet.

Judy Browne is a Residential Real Estate Consultant and teacher.  
Judy has more than 10 years of comprehensive experience in residential real estate as a broker, home inspector, teacher, landlord, homeowner, student and handywoman. She has inspected over 350 homes, taught home improvement skills to more than 500 homeowners, owned and managed investment properties and has volunteered for over 10 years building homes with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.  Judy's range of knowledge and experience will insure your home selling and buying experience happens quickly easily and with few surprises.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

3 Items EVERY home should have!

Moisture Detector/Alarm
     I have a friend who is a general contractor, remodeler and who also owns investment properties.  I sold her a home this summer that she remodeled and is now renting out.  Just last week the renters called and said the basement was flooded. The pressure relief valve (TPR valve) on the water heater failed and water poured out of the heater for quit a while before the renters discovered the problem.  What a mess. She had just installed all new carpeting and pad in the basement and now has to replace the pad at a significant expense.    

     We had lunch yesterday and were talking about water alarms and wondering why she didn't have one in place at her rental and also why neither of us have one in our home.  It just goes to show you that even people with years of experience don't always do the obvious thing.    

     Now we both have it on our immediate 'to do' list to stop by a hardware store and for as little as $12 pick up a water detector to put near our water heaters.  I suggest each of you do the same!       
     Here's a link to one you should be able to pick up at your local Ace Hardware Leak Alert Electronic Water Detector. ($12.99)
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
     I don't think I can stress enough how important it is for you to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. If you have any gas or wood fired appliances in your home, and you don't currently have carbon monoxide detectors, I suggest you get into your car, right now, and go buy them.   In Colorado it's the LAW.  Colorado Carbon Monoxide Law

First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector - Battery Operated ($19.99) 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says:
"Unintentional CO exposure accounts for an estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States each year"
     Please don't let you or someone in your family be one of these statistics. I've talked about this many times before and have even written several blog posts related to this issue which are linked below:
Kitchen Fire Extinguisher
     According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments. These fires caused 420 deaths, 5,310 injuries and $993 million in direct property damage. Cooking caused 44% of reported home fires, 16% of home fire deaths, 40% of home fire injuries, and 15% of the direct property damage in 2010.  
Kidde Kitchen 711A Fire Extinguisher  ($19.97)

For just over $50 you can protect your family and your home from potential disasters.  Please consider purchasing these items if you currently do not have them in your home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Older Homes - What you need to know

     In the home inspection world any home built prior to 1960 is considered a 'vintage' home.  Although building codes were being used as early as the 1920's often enforcement was spotty and each individual city or town adopted it's own.  There were 3 main building code groups in the US that combined in the 1990's and in 1997 the first edition of the International Building Code (IBC) was published and is used for the construction of homes today.

The main purpose of building codes are to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code continues to change and evolve as technology improves.
Some of the items listed below may be present in older homes and should be taken into consideration if you are living in, or are considering buying, an old home.  These items likely met the building codes in force at the times the homes were built but MAY no longer be considered acceptable in homes built today.
There is no requirement to bring an old home up to current codes but these items may result in an higher than average maintenance budget.
Galvanized Pipes – Prior to about 1960 it was common to use galvanized steel piping for water supply lines but it is no longer in use today in residential construction. Over time galvanized piping will corrode from the inside out effectively reducing the available water pressure. Also corrosion can occur if the piping comes in contact with dissimilar metals potentially causing a leak. At some point the supply lines will need to be replaced.
Knob and Tube Wiring – Prior to about 1930 knob and tube wiring was the original method used for running interior electrical lines and can still be found in use in old houses.  The individual wires were run through the house and connected to devices.  This is no longer considered a safe practice and should be replaced when found. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring
Aluminum Wiring (late 1960’s through mid to late 1970’s) – When the price of copper increased significantly in the mid to late 1960’s entire houses were often wired with aluminum wiring.  The use ended in the mid to late 1970’s when aluminum wiring CONNECTIONS were found to be the cause of some fires.  The problem can be solved by connecting the aluminum wire to devices that are made of materials that are compatible with aluminum and treating it with an oxide inhibitor that is intended for aluminum wiring. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_wiring
Repairing Aluminum Wiring http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf
Lead Based Paint – According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) any home built prior to 1978 may contain lead based paint which can be toxic to humans’, especially children under the age of 6, if the lead is distributed into the air during repairs or renovations.  The EPA has established guidelines for the proper way to repair or renovate a home built prior to 1978 to reduce the chance of exposure. http://epa.gov/lead/rrp/index.html
Asbestos - http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/ Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. A common misconception is that asbestos has been banned completely from use in products. This is not true.  It is important to understand the dangers of asbestos and how to limit your exposure.  Click this link for a list of products in which asbestos has been banned. http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/federalbans.html.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don’t let surprises derail your home sale

5 important tips for completing a property disclosure

I am representing buyers in the purchase of a home and the contract is signed and everyone is ready to go.  We just received the Seller’s property disclosure and now things are suddenly up in the air.  What happened?  The seller did not take the time to carefully read and consider the property disclosure and now the sale may be in jeopardy.  This is an unnecessary obstacle that can be easily avoided.

No seller is required to provide a property disclosure but every seller IS required to disclose any ‘material defects’ of which they are aware and failure to disclose a known material defect may result in legal liability. What is a material defect? The legal definition of a material defect is as follows:

According to 15 USCS § 6602 (4), [Title 15. Commerce and Trade; Chapter 92. Year 2000 Computer Date Change] the term material defect means “a defect in any item, whether tangible or intangible, or in the provision of a service, that substantially prevents the item or service from operating or functioning as designed or according to its specifications.

Basically, if the seller knows something is not working properly or is not performing  it’s intended function, they MUST disclose this issue. For example:  a roof that is leaking (not providing it’s intended function;  a sewer line that is backed up; a furnace that is not working properly or the presence of potentially troublesome materials such as aluminum wiring. The seller’s property disclosure is a relatively simple way to ensure any material defects are disclosed.

So what can seller’s do to ensure the process of selling the home can move forward smoothly?:
  1. Carefully consider each item on the disclosure and complete the form as clearly and concisely as possible.  If you know something is wrong,  disclose it.  If everything is working fine then say it is. If you honestly “do not know” then say so.
  2. Don’t simply go through the entire document and say ‘Do Not Know’. Even if you’re a landlord and have not lived in the home for a number of years it is highly unlikely that you do not know whether the dishwasher is working or not. As a buyer I would find it hard to believe that your renter didn’t notify you and it puts the negotiations in jeopardy.
  3.  Give details whenever possible.  If the roof is ‘new’ say when it was installed.  Give any other information you can relating to permits, warranties or other items.
  4. Do not leave items blank.  Fill in every item.  When things are left blank it creates questions about why that item was skipped.  Carefully review the document before signing.
  5. The seller is the only one who can complete the disclosure.  Your real estate broker should have enough experience to give you guidance as you go through the document and answer any questions and you should rely on their expertise, but in the end you are the one responsible.  
Here is a link to a copy of the Colorado Real Estate Commissions "Seller's Property Disclosure".

 If you live in the Metro Denver area and are considering buying or selling a home, please give me a call.  I have more than 10 years of comprehensive experience as an inspector, teacher, landlord, homeowner, student and handywoman. I have inspected over 350 homes, taught more than 500 homeowners, owned and managed investment properties and have  volunteered for 11 years building homes with Habitat for Humanity. My range of knowledge and experience will insure your home sells quickly, easily and with no surprises.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Upside Down? Refinance with HARP 2.0

Are you upside down on the mortgage for your home, 2nd home or investment property?  Would you like to take advantage of the low interest rates but assumed you couldn't?

My husband and I own a rental property in N Aurora.  The loan was an "interest only" loan and the property is worth about $10,000 LESS than what we owe.  We have been frustrated wishing we could refinance but not being able to afford to bring that much money to the closing table.

Earlier this summer I heard about the HARP 2.0 program.  HARP stands for Home Affordable Refinance Program.
"Home Affordable Refinance addresses the problem faced by millions of homeowners who have been unable to take advantage of low mortgage rates to refinance because their property value has fallen. The loan modification program is intended to prevent foreclosure for borrowers in default or in imminent danger of default, and has clear guidelines regarding qualification and terms."

 We have been approved for a new loan at a lower interest rate for a monthly payment that is slightly less than what we were paying for the interest only portion of our previous loan.  No appraisal was required, either.  I can't explain what a relief it is to know that we no longer have to worry about the payments on that property going up.  Our rent barely covers the mortgage payment and other expenses and any increase could easily put us in a serious financial bind.

For specific details about the program you can go to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/programs/lower-rates/Pages/harp.aspx, then contact your mortgage broker or current lender and ask for help getting the refinance started.

Here is a brief summary of the eligibility requirements:

  • The mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. You can check to see if your current mortgage is eligible by going to the Freddie Mac and/or Fannie Mae  websites.
  • The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.
  • The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously unless it is a Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March-May, 2009.
  • The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%.
  • The borrower must be current on the mortgage at the time of the refinance, with no late payment in the past six months and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months.
Additional information:
  • There is NO maximum loan to value ratio if you currently have a fixed rate mortgage. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage the loan to value ratio cannot be above 105%.
  • They've also tried to streamline the process by using an automated valuation model (AVM), which in many cases will not require you pay for an appraisal.
I am not a lender or mortgage broker and don't intend for this blog post to cover all of the details and requirements but to let you know that there may be some help for you.  Be prepared to spend many hours getting your documentation together for the underwriter's but in our experience it was time well spent.

If you live in the Metro Denver area would like some referrals to mortgage brokers that can help you get started, please feel free to contact me.