Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kitchen Remodel - Before and After Pictures

Looking South West Before
Looking South West After
Looking South Before
Looking South After
Wall Before
Wall After
Looking North Before
Looking North After
Looking North West After
Looking North West Before

Kitchen Remodel - Almost Complete

Here are the final (almost) pictures.  The only thing we have left to do is install a light fixture in the ceiling and a pendant over the sink.  Those are both on order.  I looked and looked an finally found something I liked at Urban Lights on Sante Fe.  I'm continually surprised at how expensive lighting fixtures are.  Oh well, after all the money we've spent on this kitchen I guess I shouldn't complain and at least have what I want to finish it all off.
Here are pictures of the lighting I picked out.

The final pictures (without lighting)  I have a couple that show before and after paint.  We didn't have many walls to paint.  We painted the wall we had cut out and the back wall on the north side with the doorway to the family room.
Wall that was cut out.

Looking North West Before Paint

Looking North West After Paint

Kitchen Remodel - Upper cabinets and counter-top install

The upper cabinets and crown molding were installed which was quite an event considering our floor and our ceiling are not even remotely level or parallel to each other.  Having an old house, our's was built in 1959, that has been "updated" several times in the past certainly means things get interesting.  Although both Bill and I have hung cabinets before I would never have taken this job on myself. Special congratulations to Mike with Remarkable Remodeling for doing the crown molding.  Crown molding is difficult when the ceiling is level.  I'm still amazed at how great it all looks. 

Definitely a job for professionals!  Thanks to everyone at Remarkable Remodeling for their hard work!

Looking North

Looking South

Looking North East

Looking South West

Kitchen Remodel - Countertop stuff

I have been remiss and have not posted our progress as it was happening.  With Thanksgiving coming and the push to get everything done I just didn't take the time to keep you all updated.  I'm going to do the remaining posts as several different posts just to keep the pictures and commentary separated.

In a previous post I showed the base cabinets installed which needed to be completed to allow for a template to be created for the cutting of our new granite countertop.  Unfortunately I did not get pictures of the process of creating the template,  but I have to say it was very clever.  The young man who came by was quick and efficient and used a piece of plastic coated corrugated cardboard to create the template. Very nicely done.

I don't believe I talked about our adventure in choosing the granite slab for our counter-top.  We purchased our counter-top through Project Professionals (huge thanks to Jessica Padilla) who sent us to Bedrosians to pick out our granite slab.  I won't go into the long drawn out process I went through in my head to finally agree to granite let's just say I am SO glad I did.

Here's a picture of samples I was using to choose floor tile and granite colors.

I'll tell you, walking through the warehouse looking at all the granite slabs was just amazing.  They are all so beautiful and breathtaking, it's hard to choose the one you want.  It took us about 45 minutes to finally decide. Here's a picture of our very own slab before the shipped it to Cutting Edge Granite, who cut and installed it.

The picture does not do justice to the colors.  It really is beautiful.
While we were there we found some glass tile that matched perfectly to use in our back splash.

The next post will show pictures with the upper cabinets installed and some of the counter-top as it was installed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Kitchen Remodel - Floor, drywall and base cabinets

This post will be short and sweet with mostly pictures.  A lot of work has been done but some of it does not lend itself to pictures.

Here's what has happened in the last 4 or so days. My husband and I have worked our tails off to get all of the wiring done and checked.  We still have one more receptacle to wire for the dishwasher and garbage disposer but that, fortunately, can wait.  What a relief for that to be completed.  I sometimes felt like we took on a little too much but I feel so good about what got done.  I don't think an electrician would have done all the extra work we did to make everything right and easily accessible.  If anyone owns this house after us they will be able to easily determine what every wire in our crawlspace is connected to!
Just as a quick summary of what we did:
  • Rewired (2) 20 amp circuit (small appliance circuits)
  • Added (2) new 20 amp circuits (microwave and dishwasher, disposer)
  • Added (1) new 40 amp circuit for the electric range
  • Moved (1) light fixture
  • Moved (2) receptacles
  • Added (6) new receptacles
  • Added (3) new switches
What our contractors have completed:
(Mike the tile guy was awesome!)
Floor has been tiled.  First a metal screen and base/underlayment material was installed on day 2, day 3 the tile was laid and day 4 it was grouted. Here are pictures relating to that with captions that describe what you are seeing:
Instead of under layment.

Picture of the metal screen

Floor tile installed

Mike (not the tile guy), Kevin and Blake have been wonderful too and they did all the hard work with the framing, drywall and cabinet installation.

Drywall has been installed on the new half wall and all of the holes I put in to get the wiring done have been patched.

Looking North, with holes patched and drywall taped

Looking South

Before base cabinet install

Base cabinets have been installed, the template for the countertop has been completed and finish drywall work has been done.

Base Cabinets installed, looking north

Base cabinets installed, looking south

Tomorrow the upper cabinets get installed and Thursday our appliances get delivered.  We only get to install the refrigerator right away but I will be glad to get rid of our old one that is currently sitting in our family room!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kitchen Remodel - Demo done, ready for tile...

Day 1 and most of Day 2 are behind us.  Day 1 was very stressful for me. Since we are doing some of the work the responsibility to not hold up the process is a little overwhelming at times but I'm doing much better today as we have a little breathing room.

Things I've learned so far:
Blue line in plastic is the Zipper
1.  Good protection for dust is HUGE and our contractors have done a great job.  I had no idea they make zippers you can put in plastic sheeting so you can have entry/exit points into the sealed off area.  Very clever and handy, too.

2. Don't even waste time with being good to the environment when it comes to dishes and cups.  Just stock up on paper plates, plastic ware and other disposable items.  Doing dishes in the bathroom sink is beyond ridiculous.  I guess the earth is just going to have to withstand our increase in trash for the next 2 weeks.  We couldn't take it for one more meal.
3.  If you're going to take on some of the work yourself you need to completely clear your schedule so you can be flexible about when you can get in to do your part of the work.  We didn't have dinner until 9 pm last night.  Not letting that happen again!
4.  I am incredibly grateful that I work from home, although having people working in your home and making an incredible amount of noise can be a tad annoying at least one of us is always here to answer questions and as mentioned above we can be prepared to get our work done whenever the area is freed up.
5.  It helps if your contractors are not only good at what they do but are also friendly and considerate.  We are very fortunate and very grateful to Mike, Kevin, Brett, Miriam and Mike (the tile guy)

All the demo is done.  All the 'stuff' has been removed and our new 1/2 wall is framed and ready for drywall.  About half of the electrical is done (that is the part we are doing) and the under-layment for the tile is in and drying. I don't have a picture of the under-layment for tile.  It is a metal screen mesh with a skim coat of some type of concrete mix.  It reduces the height of the finished floor, which is something we requested.

South Wall

Looking North

Dust Protection

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kitchen Remodel-Getting Ready

 I am by nature a planner and I find comfort in routine.  I am doing my best to plan how we can survive the next 3 or 4 weeks without a kitchen.  The planning is the easy part for me but adjusting to the disruption to my routine may be my biggest personal challenge.  I found a number of crockpot recipes on the internet and planned for each meal to last for two dinners.  We have set up a temporary work area and pantry and are planning to wash our dishes in the bathroom. 

The part I am finding most difficult is the disruption to my routine.  My cat and I have our morning ritual and the change is not easy for either of us.  Both my husband and I find ourselves continually heading to the 'kitchen' which is basically an empty room and then having to stop and figure out where we put whatever it is we are trying to find.

We've been thinking about remodeling the kitchen since we moved into this house 5 years ago. Our  house is a 1959 brick ranch and we bought this house because it had great 'bones' and we knew we could change the interior to suit our needs over time. We tackled one room at a time, taking the time to save up the money for the remodel in between each project.  The kitchen is the biggest and most expensive project on our list and it is the last one for quite a while.

Most of our appliances were early 1980's vintage but they just kept on working.  We have actually
Our 1984 Microwave
lived with a microwave that had a push button release on the handle to open the door and no turn-table.  Our electric range was likely top of the line in it's day, but the burners stayed hot for what seemed like an hour after turning them off.  The dishwasher did it's job as long as the dishes were relatively clean when you loaded it.  The anticipation of all new appliances is a wonderful feeling.

We are lucky to have our good friend as our general contractor which allows us the luxury of doing some things ourselves to save money. I plan to blog frequently as we go through the process and will post pictures too as our kitchen transforms.

My husband and I removed all of our old cabinets, disconnected the sink, faucet, garbage disposal and dishwasher.  We've carted all of our cabinets out to the garage for pick up by the Habitat for Humanity Restore.  We were originally planning to have this remodel done between Thanksgiving and Christmas but when our GC's schedule opened up we reserved our spot right away so we didn't have time to schedule the Habitat De-Construction crew to do the cabinet removal for us.  If you're planning on doing any major remodel projects and want to donate your old stuff, you can contact the deconstruction group to come out, remove the items and then take them to one of their Restores to be resold.

Here are some before pictures.  We had already started removing some cabinets when I remembered to get the camera out.


Looking north from dining room

Looking S into dining room
SW Corner

Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shut Down and Real Estate Transations

Quick Summary:
  1. Loan processing MAY be delayed depending on your lender and type of loan because the IRS is closed an cannot provide copies of your tax returns and the SSA is closed and cannot verify social security numbers.
  2. HUD will endorse loans for single family homes but it not multi-family loans (condo's and townhomes)
  3. VA loans are being processed but expect delays.
  4. USDA loans are NOT being processed.                                                                                                                                                  
Below is a shortened version of and is DIRECTLY QUOTED from, an update that was published on-line by the National Association of Realtors (direct link here)

Oct. 3, 2013 - What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for REALTORS®?

The information below is based on NAR staff review of agency agency contingency plans for the current shutdown and past experience with previous shutdowns and near-shutdowns. Download PDF summary.

Latest Status Information

(as of Oct. 3, 2013 2PM ET)
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
The IRS is closed and has suspended the processing of all forms, including requests for tax return transcripts (Form 4506T). While FHA and VA do not require these transcripts, they are required by many lenders for many kinds of loans, including FHA and VA, so delays can be expected if the shutdown is protracted...

Social Security Administration (SSA)
The Social Security Administration is closed and has suspended most customer service functions. According to the SSA Contingency Plan, verifying Social Security numbers through the Consent Based SSN Verification Service will also be suspended during the shutdown, a further complication for mortgage processing...

Additional Status Information

(as of Oct. 1, 2013 7AM ET)
Federal Housing Administration
HUD’s Contingency Plan states that FHA will endorse new loans in the Single Family Mortgage Loan Program, but it will not make new commitments in the Multi-family Program during the shutdown..

VA Loan Guaranty Program
Lenders will continue to process and guaranty mortgages through the Loan Guaranty program in the event of a government shutdown. Expect some delays during the shutdown.

Flood Insurance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will not be impacted by a government shutdown...

Rural Housing Programs
For the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, essential personnel working during a shutdown do not include field office staff who typically issue conditional commitments, loan note guarantees, and modification approvals. Thus, lenders will not receive approvals during the shutdown...

Government Sponsored Enterprises
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue operating normally, as will their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, since they are not reliant on appropriated funds.

The Making Home Affordable program, including HAMP and HAFA, will not be affected as the program is funded through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act which is mandatory spending not discretionary.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to change your furnace filter

Step by Step instructions on changing a furnace filter

Locate the air Filter. Depending on the furnace design, it can either be located in the blower door unit itself or located between the blower and the return air duct.  You may need a screwdriver to help pry open the access panel or blower door.

Remove the filter from it's support.

Check filter Hold your filter up to light to check for cleanliness.  If it's dirty or you're not sure either replace it or clean it.

Replace or Clean the Filter.  If your filter is paper or fiberglass and it is dirty, then replace it.  If the filter is a dry foam type filter you can wash it out or vacuum it clean.

Insert Filter into Furnace. Look at your replacement filter and notice the arrow on the frame that shows the direction of air flow for the filter.  Insert the filter back into it's holding frame with the air flow arrow positioned correctly.  The arrow should point towards the blower motor and main part of the furnace.

Replace the access panel or blower door panel.

If you live in the Denver Metro Area and are interested in learning how to do your own home improvement and maintenance.  Visit www.workshopforwomen.com for a list of upcoming classes. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Problems with your light switch?

"I have a switch at the top of my stairs and one at the bottom that are supposed to turn on an overhead light, but the switch at the bottom only works if the switch at the top is on, what is wrong?"    

At least one student in every one of my electrical classes tells me of a problem like this.  It might be switches at opposite ends of a hall or at 2 entries to a room.  Regardless of the location the solution is the same. It is a very common problem and one that was likely caused by someone who knew just enough to replace a switch but didn't understand this particular set-up.

First some definitions:

When you have 1 switch that turns on one light (or set of lights) it is called a 2-way switching circuit and uses one (1) single pole switch.

When you have 2 switches that turn on one light (or set of lights) it is called a 3-way switching circuit and uses two (2) 3-way switches.

How to diagnose the problem:

Look closely at both of the switches where you have the problem.  In a 3-way switching set up BOTH switches must be 3-way switches.   How can you tell the difference?  A single pole switch will have the words OFF and ON imprinted on the switch.  A 3-way switch will be blank.  Both switches should be blank. 
  • If both of the switches are 3-way switches (blank).  Then one of the switches has been wired incorrectly and you will need to make changes to the connections.
  • If one of the switches is a single pole switch (has ON and OFF imprinted), then you will need to replace that switch with a 3-way switch and be sure the wiring connections are correct. 
 Removing the Single Pole Switch:
  1. Shut off the power to the circuit at your service panel.  If you don't know where your service panel is located or do not know how to shut off the power to your branch circuits  you SHOULD NOT be attempting this repair on your own.
  2. Remove the cover plate and and loosen the screws that hold the switch to the box.  Remove the switch if it was a single pole switch and replace it with a 3-way switch. See below for how to make the wiring connections on a 3-way switch.
Determining which 3-way switch is mis-wired:
  1. Shut off the power to the circuit at your service panel.  If you don't know where your service panel is located or do not know how to shut off the power to your branch circuits  you SHOULD NOT be attempting this repair on your own.
  2. Remove the cover plate and and loosen the screws that hold the switch to the box. Pull the switch from the box and look closely at the wiring connections.  Compare the connections to the drawing below.  If the connections are correct then it is the other switch that has been incorrectly wired.  Move on the the other switch and repeat.
Wiring connections for a 3-way switching circuit:

  1. Look closely at the 3-way switch and notice that you have one (1) black screw (aka: common terminal), two (2) brass screws and one green screw.
  2. You should have two (2) black wires, one (1) red wire and one (1) bare copper wire. 
  3. Connect the bare copper wire to the green or ground screw.
  4. Look into the back of the electrical box and locate the black and red wires (aka:travelers) that enter the box together.  Connect the red wire to one of the brass screws and the black wire to the other brass screw.  
  5. Find the remaining black wire and connect it to the black screw (aka: common terminal)
  6. Put everything back together and restore power to the circuit.
Congratulations You Fixed It!

Judy Browne, author of this blog, is a residential real estate consultant with more than 10 years of comprehensive experience as a broker, home inspector, teacher, landlord, homeowner, student and handywoman. Judy's range of knowledge and experience enables her to assist you in almost every area of home ownership.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Protecting Homeowners from Mortgage Relief Scams

Guest Article by Sarah Parr
Protecting Homeowners from Mortgage Relief Scams
By Sarah Parr

The United States has some of the most deceiving businessmen today: mortgage relief scam artists. They exploit, profit from and give concerned homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments a false sense of security. Scam artists may look through newspapers or foreclosure filings at courthouses and government buildings and target clients from areas known as centers of foreclosure activity. Advertisement may come in the form of door-to-door solicitation, flyers on telephone poles or roadside signs or traditional web, radio and television advertising.
Mortgage relief scams are difficult to decipher, so here are a few tips to avoid encountering a scam.

Before reaching for your wallet…
Qualification of specific government programs that aid in the loan modification process or foreclosure defense is free, according to PreventLoanScams.org. It also doesn’t cost a cent to speak with a government agency-approved housing counselor. Nevertheless, homeowners frequently report shady companies that charge clients for access to government programs and housing counseling. If a homeowner rescue company asks for a large amount of money upfront for access to the latest government program or a recent mortgage settlement, it could be a sham. Information for housing counseling and government relief programs can be easily accessed online. Homeowners should also be cautious of companies that advise homeowners to pay mortgages to them and not to the loan provider.

Nothing is promised
Foreclosure protection or the modification of a loan is never promised, and access to specific government programs may only be guaranteed for some borrowers. Disappointingly, mortgage relief scam artists will try to persuade someone that a loan modification or foreclosure defense handled by their company is guaranteed. A scam artist may pretend to be a member of a legitimate organization approved by, or affiliated with, the government and state that a homeowner qualifies for a specific government program that aids in foreclosure defense or loan modifications.

Detecting phonies
In order to appear authentic and reliable, scam artists will do anything these days. Non-attorneys often pose as attorneys who only offer loan modification services, according to the New York Times. Consumers should be suspicious of these firms, especially since most law firms include loan modifications as one of many services. Some law firms even pose as non-profit groups that offer loan workouts or forensic loan audits.

Another kind of scam artist, the “foreclosure rescuer,” may convince a client to transfer the title or sell his or her home, and then tell the client to stay in the home as renters. They will reassure the former homeowners that they will be able to reclaim the house once they’ve recovered financially. However, the scam artist will be able to evict the victims and claim the home.
People on the verge of losing their home should watch out for the scams covered above. Also, homeowners who would like a loan modification or who are at risk of foreclosure should never avoid any communication from their lender. Free foreclosure counseling is provided by government agency-certified housing counseling agencies, or by contacting the Homeowners’ HOPE Hotline.

Friday, March 29, 2013

5 things to ask a home inspector

     As some of you know I do a lot of different things related to residential real estate. I teach home improvement classes through Workshop for Women, I am a certified home inspector and I am also a licensed real estate broker.  Through all of these endeavors it is my desire to educate others on the joy of home ownership.
     A telephone call from a young woman prompted this article.  This young woman called the office to schedule a home inspection and ask to speak directly to an inspector to ask some questions before making the appointment.  Since no inspectors were readily available the scheduler asked if there were any questions she could answer.  They young woman asked, "Well, does your inspector have a lot of tools?"  I have to admit this made me laugh. I don't mean to make light of what was obviously a serious question but I don't believe the answer, which is yes, tells her anything about the home inspector's skill level.

     Here are 5 questions to ask when interviewing a home inspector or home inspection company:
  1. Is the inspector licensed (if that is required in your state) or certified through a nationally recognized professional association (if your state does not require licensing)? Two nationally recognized associations are:  ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors).  For those of you who live in Colorado it is important for you to know that there is currently no requirement for home inspectors to be licensed or even certified in our state. 
  2. Is the inspector and the inspection company covered by Errors and Omissions (E & O) Insurance?  Errors and Omissions insurance covers you, your broker and the inspector in the event something is damaged or missed during an inspection.  None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, the important thing is that everyone is protected in the event of a problem.  An example of how E & O insurance protected the inspector, the buyer's real estate agent and the buyer: "...during the course of a February home inspection, the inspector shut off the power to the property’s furnace in order to inspect the furnace filter. Upon completion of the home inspection, the inspector neglected to turn the furnace’s power back on. The property owner returned to the home a few days later to find the furnace off and the water pipes frozen. The pipes burst, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage as the result of an innocent mistake."  This example was taken from an article in the ASHI Reporter.
  3. What will the inspection cover? A professional home inspection should cover the entire home and all of the major systems, components and mechanical equipment.  This includes, but is not limited to, the following:  Landscaping (drainage, retaining walls, exterior structures, concrete, etc.), Exterior (siding, windows, window wells, etc.), Roof (roof covering, gutters, flashing, chimney, etc), Attic (structure, insulation, ventilation, exhaust vents, etc), Plumbing, Electrical, Furnace, Air Conditioning, Kitchen, Bathrooms, Finished interior, Structure, Basement and Crawlspace.  An inspection will typically take 3-4 hours depending on the size and age of the home. Please visit Pillar to Post for more information about home inspections. (This is why the answer to the young woman's question is YES!)
  4. What additional testing do you recommend? A home inspector can only inspect what he/she can see, regardless of what you see on TV, and there are additional inspections that may be required.  Most home inspectors can perform Radon testing in addition to your visual inspection but it will be for an additional cost.  Go here for more information about radon. You should also consider getting a 'sewer scope'.  This test involves a qualified person inserting a camera into the main sewer line to uncover any potential problems with damage or blockage.
  5. When do I get the results of the inspection? A reputable home inspector should be able to provide you with your inspection results at least by the end of the day of your inspection.  Ideally, if you are able to attend the inspection you should be able to leave with a hard copy of your report.  Pillar to Post home inspectors will print out a hard copy at the completion of the inspection and email an electronic copy of the report to you by the end of the day.
Of course there are many other questions that you could ask but these are a must!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Deal Extends Mortgage Debt Relief Act

Thanks to Denise Wing of Academy National Mortgage for this information:

Thanks to some last minute maneuvers in Congress, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act was extended through the end of 2013 as part of the deal reached by lawmakers to avoid the fiscal cliff. The law was set to expire at the end of 2012. Legislators left in place a 2007 tax break for homeowners whose debt is forgiven by lenders and preserved exemptions for profits on home sales.

Mortgage debt that's been forgiven by lenders in short sales or loan workouts is typically taxable, which means money coming out of borrowers' pocketbooks. Short sales are deals in which homeowners sell their properties for less than they are worth as long as banks approve. Help arrived in 2007, when the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act came to be, giving people a break from taxable income on loan balances of up to $2 million, or $1 million for a married tax filer who's submitting a separate return.

This move will help keep momentum going for a housing market that last year started to reverse a five-year slump that pushed the U.S. economy into the longest recession since the 1930s. The law helps the housing market by reducing the number of foreclosures. Repossessions are also down by one third compared to their highest levels in 2010.

Consumer advocacy groups would like to see a provision that excludes loans in which borrowers tapped their home equity while refinancing to be dropped because it creates a large paperwork burden for everyone who claims an exemption.

It is believed by many analysts the expiration of the mortgage-debt relief act could have led to serious economic consequences for parts of the nation. Possible outcomes included a surge in bankruptcies and foreclosures because certain borrowers would have been stuck with a tax bill after a short sale or loan modification. This could also have led to a reduction in the number of homes available in the market as consumers would have attempted fewer short sales and simply let their homes go back to the lender.

Since there are some situations were a tax liability could still be incurred, please consult your tax professional about the consequences of completing a short sale or home loan modification.

Keeping You Informed
Academy National Mortgage Corporation mortgage professionals are dedicated to keeping you informed of the latest market trends and mortgage options. Call Academy National Mortgage Corporation today at 303-987-0622, to obtain custom loan options designed to fit your needs and help you obtain your home goals.