What Can I Expect from My Home Inspection?

Home inspector examines architectural, asphalt shingled roof.

Home inspections are a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?
Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:

  • Lot and landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Hot water supply
  • Chimney and fireplace(s)
  • Termite damage/wood damage
  • Attic
  • Exterior
  • Garage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

A home inspection is one of the most important things you can do to make your home purchase a good one. Don’t skip this step!

Is Now the Right Time to Consider a Cash Out Refinance?

Paper with words cash out refinance.

You may have considered moving to a new home but have not found the perfect one for you and your family. Home renovations may make your current home feel like new. Or perhaps you want to pay off credit card debt and better position yourself financially.

Those are two reasons that a cash-out refinance may be a smart financial move for you.

If you have equity in your home, a cash out refinance may be an option for you. This type of refinance would allow you to replace your existing mortgage with a higher loan amount, allowing you to get cash back. You would receive cash for the remaining amount after paying off your existing loan amount.

Here’s how a cash-out refinance works:

  • It pays your current mortgage and allows you to apply for a higher loan amount.
  • A cash out refinance has a limit to the amount of equity that can be received in cash. This is normally between 70% to 80% depending on the loan program.

The pros of a cash-out refinance:

  • A mortgage refinance typically offers a lower interest rate than a home equity line of credit or home equity loan.
  • You can make home renovations with a cash-out refinance, potentially adding value to your home.
  • You can save money in interest and increase your credit score by paying off your debt in full.

A note about private mortgage insurance:

If you have a lot of equity in your home, there’s a good chance you are no longer paying for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. If you borrow more than 80% of your home’s value, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance.

A cash-out refinance can make sense. Using the money to fund a home renovation or consolidate debt can rebuild the equity you’re taking out or help you get on a sounder financial footing. As with any mortgage loan questions, we would be happy to discuss this with you further.

Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

fun thanksgiving

It’s your turn to have your family and friends join you for Thanksgiving. As a first-time or fifth-time Thanksgiving host, you may appreciate some tips to make the day a little less stressful and a little more fun.

Plan ahead: Create your grocery list and do your shopping well ahead of time. Double check your purchases against your recipes when you get home and make sure you have everything you need. There’s nothing worse than realizing you are missing a key ingredient on Thanksgiving Day. Some stores aren’t open and those that are can be crowded.

Ask for RSVPs: When you send out your invitations, include an RSVP by date. You need to know how much food to have, how many places to set, and even how many chairs to have. If you don’t get a reply from someone, contact them to confirm that they are or are not coming.

Keep the menu simple and traditional: This is another time that keeping a menu simple is a bonus. Stick with recipes you know and that are favorites.

Cook your turkey upside down: This keeps the turkey moister. Best tip ever!

Accept help: Guests are often happier if they have something to do or feel useful. Let them help! Have some tasks they can do — fill water glasses, serve beverages or appetizers, cut veggies, stir gravy. If they ask to bring a dish, let them! It’ll save you time and money in the end.

Set your table ahead of time: When guests arrive and the table is set, the home not only looks nice and prepared, but you are less rushed. Setting the table also ensures that you have everything you need for your big day.

It’s your new home and your first Thanksgiving. Celebrate all you have to be thankful for. And remember — everything may not be perfect, but if you act like it is, your guests will believe it. 

Holiday Etiquette the Whole Neighborhood Will Agree On

House with Many Colorful Christmas Lights

You just moved into a new neighborhood and now you need to know the “rules.” Let there be peace on earth and in your neighborhood this holiday season by following some special seasonal etiquette.

Turn down the noise. A lot of holiday decorations play music today. If your snowmen and Santas are singing, consider turning them off by 9 p.m. No one wants to Jingle All the Way all night long.  In addition, guests come and go more often and at different times during the holidays. Voices carry at night and in the morning so keep your voice down when coming and going.

If your holiday lights are extra bright, turn them off at a reasonable hour (10 p.m.) so they aren’t shining in your neighbors’ windows all night long.

Kids are extra excited and excitable during the holidays. They can swing from happy to sad on a dime. Don’t let them scream from the top of their lungs with delight or dismay.

Keep a few extra inexpensive gifts in your home. If a neighbor pops by with a treat for you, you’ll be ready to reciprocate.

Don’t welcome yourself home by honking in your driveway. You’ll be inside to say hello in no time. Same goes for saying goodbye – no need to honk.

Are you hosting a party? Invite your neighbors. It’s a great way to spur some neighborhood camaraderie. It also gets you off the hook for a little bit when music or voices get loud.

Offer to pick up mail and packages for neighbors who are traveling or working late. Porch pirates are becoming more popular these days so if you can help by keeping packages in your house, you’re doing a great service for a friend.

If you have an issue with a neighbor, discuss it with him in person, politely and calmly. Don’t put anonymous notes in mailboxes or post anonymously in online forums.

Garbage cans overflow at the holidays. Make sure paper and trash from your overflowing can doesn’t blow into a neighbor’s yard. Find ways to neatly toss your trash.

Shovel and de-ice your sidewalks and other pathways. This not only makes your home appear well taken care of, but it can keep people from slipping and sliding as they walk by on their way to school or on their walks with Fido.

Give a helping hand. Have an elderly neighbor a neighbor who could use some help? Shovel their driveway and walk as well.

And make sure you clear a path for your mail carrier as well. Life is easier when you’re not stepping a pile of slush.

Remember your manners and you’ll be the jolliest holiday homeowner of all time. 

Things to Do with Your Family before Summer Ends

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Back-to-School time is coming soon. Don’t let summer slip by without taking part in a few summertime favorites with your kids. Some of these may even harken back to your own summer memories. Share those memories with your kids, while creating new ones.

Spend the day at a sandy beach near you. You don’t have to take a trip to Florida to get the most out of sun and sand. There are a lot of state parks, national parks and local parks that have fun beaches. Grab a pail, a shovel, some chairs, your sunscreen and a picnic lunch and make memories by the water for one last summer splash.

Play mini golf. This is the perfect after-supper activity. It’s relaxing and challenging at the same time. Kids and adults alike have fun trying to get past the windmill, down the right slope and into a hole in one!

Be a tourist for the day. Let’s face it, there are towns and historical sites that we never go to and hikes we never take because they are for the tourists. But these places provide a lot of new information about your local community and your state. And there’s a reason tourists go there – they are fun to visit. Don’t miss out on the reasons out-of-towners hit the towns!

Find a festival. Summer is about festivals and there’s a festival for everyone. Whether your family is into art, culture or funnel cakes, there’s a festival somewhere. Grab the kids, head to the Ferris wheel with cotton candy and just have some summer fun.

Camp in the backyard. Set up the tent, grill hot dogs and make s’mores – all without leaving home. There are memories to be made in your own backyard. Telling ghost stories and giggling past dark is a part of many family traditions. It could be a part of yours!

Get ice cream from the ice cream truck. Few things sound like summer as much as the songs from the ice cream truck. Don’t let it pass by this summer without stopping for a rocket pop!

Whatever you do, make the last breath of summer a memorable one for you and your family.