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Pensacola Real Estate Professionals Shares 6 Annual Cool-Weather Home Maintenance Tips

We, at Pensacola Real Estate Professionals, wanted to remind you that an ounce of prevention can save you big bucks on the maintenance of your home! Because what may be a small, inexpensive problem now could be a huge, costly problem later! Neglecting to clear a leaf-chocked gutter could result in wood rot and the spread of mildew. A poorly maintained heating system may eventually spew toxic fumes or stop working entirely on a cold day. And cracks in walls and windows (besides creating nasty drafts) are an open invitation to pests and water.

Yearly fall maintenance is more than convenience; it’s also a smart investment strategy. Many homeowners get their homes professionally inspected in the fall, so they can keep a running record. Everyone should have a history of their home, and when you go to sell, having one could make or break the deal. It helps perspective buyers see evidence of the repairs you’ve made over the years. Every time you make repairs or renovations, it’s a good idea to take a video or photo of the results and save the details to your computer.

Although you should really call a specialist for certain jobs, here are some jobs you can do yourself.

Clean Gutters and Drainage Spouts.

gutter cleaningProtect yourself first by always wearing gloves – animals or insects can hide in gutters. A gutter scoop is a convenient tool for removing leaves and other debris. Then place the garden hose in the downspout to flush it out.

Inspect Your Roof.

Look for signs of deterioration (loose shingles, rotting wood, cracks, etc.) Carefully trim heavy branches that are hanging over your roof. ( A falling branch could hurt someone, cause a blackout or damage your roof. Ifroof maintenance you’re using your chimney, flying sparks could possibly ignite overhanging branches.) If the branches are near power line, call a professional tree-trimming company to do the trimming; they may need to contact your power company to temporarily disconnect your power before they start working.

Check All Windows and Doors.

window caulkingRemove summer screens and install storm windows and doors. Inspect and repair any loose or damaged windows or door frames. Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to reduce drafts, too. If you discover signs of deterioration, such as moisture on surrounding walls or dry-rot damage, call a certified home inspector or restoration specialist immediately.

Clean Your Heating System.

Replace the filters in your furnace. You should do this monthly if you or any one in your family has allergies. Check for air leakage around the joints. And consider having an air conditioning and heating specialist checkcleaning heating system 1 your entire system before winter sets in. If you don’t already have one, install a carbon monoxide detector near all appliances that burn fossil fuel, but be sure you install it in an area where you’ll hear the alarm if it is triggered.

Check the Smoke Detector.

checking smoke detectorSome people wait until they reset their clocks during Daylight Savings Time to inspect their smoke detectors, but if you missed it in the spring, don’t wait another month – check them now. Press the button to make sure it beeps and replace batteries if necessary. Most smoke detectors signal with an automatic beep when the battery gets low, but it’s always good to check on an annual basis. Smoke detectors should be replaced every six months.

Secure the Cracks.

From skunks to insects to other critters, your home can fall prey to unwanted invaders. Before they start seeking shelter from the cold,secure exterior cracks inspect the perimeter of your home for cracks or holes where they could enter and then seal them well. Clean and lubricate the garage-door hinges, rollers and tracks to make sure the door closes securely. If you detect evidence of animal activity, such as urine odors, unexplained gnaw marks, feces or footprints, consult an exterminator.

If I can help direct you to a local professional inspector. Please contact me here or directly at 850-393-7106.

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Pensacola Real Estate News Report On Toxic Chinese Drywall

News about potentially toxic Chinese drywall started being reported in early 2009. What effect the defective drywall will have on the Pensacola real estate market is still unknown, as we don’t know how many Pensacola homes for sale may be affected by Chinese drywall.  It was initially reported that the problem was isolated to a few homes in Miami, Florida. However, as the story developed, it appeared to be a much larger problem that could affect homeowners all across Florida and the Gulf Coast.

According to America’s Watchdog Homeowner Consumer Center, “the potentially toxic Chinese dry wall was used all over the entire state of Florida, in Georgia, in the Carolinas and in all Gulf Coast states. We are particularly worried about New Orleans, because we lost so many houses there during and after Katrina. At the time I lived in New Orleans and I know how hard it was to get sheet rock, so we are 100% certain it’s in New Orleans on a large scale.”

Note to all consumers throughout the nation: “The Homeowners Consumer Center is convinced the potentially toxic Chinese dry wall is not limited to the US Southeast, or the Gulf states. If you have a home that was built or remodeled in 2005 to 2008 that has a strong sulphur smell, or a rotten egg type smell please contact the Homeowners Consumer Center at 866-714-6466.”

What are the signs your house might have the potentially toxic imported Chinese dry wall?

First the house was built or remodeled between 2005 and 2008
The house has a strong or noticeable smell of sulphur or rotten eggs.
The home has experienced repeated air conditioning coil issues or corrosion
The home’s occupants have experienced upper respiratory issues, nose bleeds, or other medical issues.
Young children or senior citizens may be the first to show signs of exposure to a home with the imported Chinese dry wall.

Lawsuits are currently in process in South Florida over the drywall issue. I will report on developments in these lawsuits here on Pensacola Real Estate News.

The good news is that we have home inspectors in the Pensacola area that have been trained on how to look for evidence of Chinese drywall. A home inspector I spoke to told me that there are many signs that will give away the presence of the drywall. He had been to Chinese drywall detection seminars and felt confident he could determine if a home had the bad drywall installed.

For more information on Chinese drywall and updated news reports, visit http://helpchinesedrywall.com/

Even if there is no concern about Chinese drywall, every buyer should have a home inspection, no exceptions. You never know what the inspector might find. ( See Redneck Ingenuity Makes Home Inspections a Must )

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Make Sure Your Home Warranty Is There When You Need It (Follow-up)

A few weeks back I wrote an article on Pensacola Real Estate News about how you should protect your investment in a home warranty by making sure that all warranted items were in working condition when you moved into your home. I noted that the home warranty company would try to find a way out of paying for repairs if at all possible. The article was written based on the experiences of one of my clients. You can read that article by clicking on this link: Pensacola Real Estate News – Home Warranty Article

The fact that I am writing a follow-up article tells you that I’ve learned something since that previous article was published. I also learned that I have readers out there who are sharing feedback with me, and I greatly appreciate that. Man_cookingJust the fact that I have readers really excites me.

The day after publishing that article, a manager from the local branch of Old Republic Home Warranty company called me. He thanked me for the great article and was very complimentary (Thank you Stewart). He also told me that my article was accurate up until mid-December 2007. He said that in December Old Republic modified their agreement to cover unknown pre-existing conditions. I took a look at the new home warranty agreement and found the following wording:

Coverage may apply to a malfunction which existed on the effective date of the Plan if, at that time, the malfunction was unknown, and would not have been detectable to seller, buyer or agent by visual inspection and simple mechanical test. This Plan does not cover known defects.

I will let my readers decide how they feel about this wording. I believe it does indicate that they would cover an unknown pre-existing condition, but I do not like the word “may”. I prefer the word “will”, as in “coverage WILL apply”.

I do appreciate the call from the home warranty manager, and I fully believe he is sincere in his promise that they will cover pre-existing unknown problems. I do, however, still suggest that home buyers follow my advice given in the previous article. Check out all warranted equipment when you move in to your new home.

As for my client, well I’m afraid he was a male who doesn’t do much cooking and wasn’t clear on how to operate his warranted oven. After he was told by the sweet home warranty operator that his problem was not covered because he did not know if it worked when he moved in, he took another shot at it and found that the oven worked fine once he turned the correct knobs in the correct order. Now this guy in the picture is not my client, thank goodness. While he appears to know how to operate the stove, he kind of creeps me out with that sinister grin. I have to wonder what he is cooking.

Aside from the creepy dude,  all is well with my client, and his lack of oven experience happened to make for a great article. However, he purchased his home warranty in February of 2008, after the new policy was in place. Thus the new “unknown pre-existing” clause should have been in effect. Was the home warranty operator unaware of the change in the contract? Or was she aware of the change, and still trying to avoid paying a claim?  Good question.

I must end this article by saying that I have other clients who had warranties through Old Republic and were extremely satisfied with the service they received on warranted equipment. I am not trying to criticize any warranty company’s service, only trying to show home buyers how to protect themselves against the unknown.

Click on Pensacola Real Estate News for a list of articles indexed by category.

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Make Sure Your Home Warranty Is There When You Need It, Money Saving Advice From Pensacola Real Estate News

When buying or selling real estate, home warranty plans are often included as an incentive from the seller to the buyer,  or sometimes as a negotiation tool. I recommend all of my home buyers get a home warranty, even if the seller is not offering a home warranty and the buyer has to pay for it. In this buyer’s real estate market, motivated sellers should offer a home warranty. Customer_Service_Rep_RS380

However, this article is not about getting a home warranty. This article is about how to protect your investment in a home warranty once you have it. Remember, the home warranty provider does not make money by fixing your problems. The home warranty provider wants to find a way to get out of fixing your problems, and thus keeping their money.  Please take this advice to heart. It could save you a lot of frustration and money.

This article is based on an experience of a buyer who was my client. The behaviors described in this article may not be true for all home warranty companies. But the advice given is important, no matter who issues your home warranty.

TYPICAL SCENARIO

Let’s say that you purchased a home, along with a home warranty plan. You are feeling good knowing that if you have problems with warranted items, you pay a small service fee and the home warranty company will cover the rest. You had your home inspected prior to closing and the inspector told you that everything was in working condition.

Let’s say that you close on your home in July, a very hot time of year in Pensacola.  Why would you think of running your heater in July?

Now November comes, and a blast of cold air comes down from the north. It is time to get some heat on. But to your dismay, the heater does not seem to be blowing any hot air. After checking what little you actually know how to check, and getting advice from your friends who don’t know any more about heating and A/C units than you do, you decide it is time to call the warranty company.

Important: Don’t bother calling your real estate agent. He or she likely knows very little about heating systems, and that is why he or she recommended you get a home warranty.

MAKING THE CALL – BE ON YOUR GUARD

You dig up your paperwork from the real estate closing, and give the warranty company a call. A very sweet customer service representative from the warranty company answers. She talks to you like a friend, sharing how terrible she feels that you may have to endure a few cold nights in your home while you wait for service. After several minutes of basic question and answer conversation, you are feeling very good about the whole situation. This warranty company really cares about you. You can just hear it in her voice. She is like a genuine friend.

And then the warranty company representative asks if you have tried the heater since you moved in to your new home. Your guard is down, you are at ease with your friend on the other end of the phone, and you answer “Well, no. We bought the home in July and it was very hot. But we had a home inspection and the inspector ensured us that the heater worked when the home was inspected”.

Then the warm and friendly answer on the other end comes. “We’re sorry, but since you have told us that you did not know if your heater worked when you purchased the home, we are not obligated to cover it under your warranty plan. You did not actually own the home when the inspector tested the heating system”.

OUCH!!! Even though the weather has gotten cold, you are now feeling pretty hot. But don’t lose your cool, as you can be sure the call is being recorded “to ensure quality service”.

Home_warranty_ProviderDon’t let this happen to you. When you move into your new home, test every item that is covered under the home warranty. If it is the middle of winter, test your air conditioning. If it is the middle of summer, test your heater. Test all of the burners on your stove, even if you never cook. Test all the features of your oven and your dishwasher. If the seller left you a freezer in the garage that you really don’t need right now, test it anyway.

Now if you have a problem in the future, you can call your home warranty company and say “YES, I know it worked when I moved in because I used it”. It is as simple as that. You keep your warranty in force.

BUT what if you move in and test your heater, or your stove, or your A/C, and find that it doesn’t work? You have no way of proving that it worked at the time you purchased your home warranty, which was at the closing table. What are you going to tell the warranty company when they ask you if you have tried it since you moved in and verified that it worked? I just wrote this article to explain how to protect your home warranty, not to answer moral dilemmas. Hopefully you will never have to decide how you would answer your friendly home warranty operator in this situation.

After publishing this article, a local home warranty company contacted me with updated information. You can read about it in my follow-up article on home warranties.

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Pensacola Real Estate News: Redneck Ingenuity Makes Home Inspections A Must

As a Pensacola real estate agent, I always recommend home inspections for my buyers (and sellers too). Most homes have the typical issues that agents and inspectors see often enough, but sometimes unusual “modifications” are encountered. And rednecks are especially good at creative modifications.

Many people don’t think of Florida as having a lot of rednecks, but Pensacola is often jokingly referred to as LA (Lower Alabama). When I grew up in Pensacola it was a much smaller town than it is now. The east side of town generally consisted of families with higher incomes and children that drove the better cars, i.e. not old pick up trucks. The west side of town was considered the more redneck area. The west side crowd used to regularly congregate at large parking lots on Perdido Key and throw some pretty wild parties. There were plenty of good ole boy fights, either over the women, or just drunks fighting for the fun of it. Many of the pickup trucks would be loaded up with kegs of beer. The trucks that weren’t loaded with beer were often being raced across the empty lots, or worked on in the parking lot to make them faster, or just to get them well enough for the trip home.

Today those same stretches of beach property are occupied by high rise Perdido Key condos, where any self-respecting redneck would dare not venture. But rednecks can still be found around the area. In fact, just recently Pensacola home inspector Jim Ellis discovered some true redneck ingenuity in a home he was hired to inspect. Here are Jim’s remarks, and a couple of pictures he snapped at this home:

“My inspection this morning had some handy man work done. Just as an example someone ran the cables from 2 Dish satellites through the top of a plumbing drain waste vent, made a hole in the pipe into the attic and had it exit to the bedrooms for TV! Certainly no short term problems here, but, possible water leaks, slow plumbing drain and odors in the attic could occur”

Rednect_satellite_dish1_RS400

Rednect_satellite_dish2_RS400

Jim writes a blog on the Active Rain network. If you want stories and info about home inspections, visit Jim’s blog at http://activerain.com/blogs/shamus

And I couldn’t pass up adding this beauty from my favorite bad MLS photo guy Athol Kay.

Redneck_Kitchen_With_Clothesline

How can you really call yourself a redneck if you don’t have a clothes line running across your kitchen. Yes, this picture was actually posted on an MLS somewhere. Thanks Athol.

If you want a bunch of great laughs, visit Athol’s bad MLS photo of the day site at (I’m very sorry to say that Athol’s site is no longer up. It was a real hoot. But there are other Bad MLS Photo sites out there if you are looking to be entertained by photos taken by incompetent real estate agents).  Here’s one.  Maybe it will last a while. Good, but not nearly as funny as Athol’s old site. We miss you Athol, wherever you are.

http://veryvintagevegas.com/category/worst-mls-photo/

If any Pensacola west side rednecks are offended by this post, please understand something. I grew up on the west side of Pensacola and went to Escambia High School. I know about those great beach parties because I was at a lot of them. Keep up the ingenuity my redneck brothers. Just beware of the home inspector!

Click on Pensacola Real Estate News for a list of articles indexed by category.

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