Thinking of buying or selling a home in the Washington DC Metro area? Then we've got some resources you need to read! From painting and siding to plumbing and repairs, we've got all the information you need for an informed buying or selling experience.
A Little Paint Works Wonders
A coat of fresh paint can go a long way towards making a home look, feel, and even smell fresher, cleaner, and newer. If your home has chipped paint, exposed wood, or surfaces that look faded, it's time for new paint. Similarly, if your carpet is worn, dirty, or outdated, you might consider replacing it.
Many houses do not sell because of these problems. Don't assume that buyers will look past your home's shortcomings to see its potential or that they'll have more money than you to freshen up a home. Typically, they don't. They'll simply look elsewhere for a home that needs less work.
What About Lead Paint?
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around homes. It may cause a range of health effects, from behavior problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years of age and under are most at risk because their bodies are growing quickly.
There are millions of homes with lead paint out there, and many have been painted and repainted several times so the lead paint is well covered up. If in doubt, have the paint tested and evaluated at a local lab or with a home test kit available at your local hardware store.
All sellers with homes built prior to 1978 are required to fill out a lead-based paint disclosure form and provide the buyer with a lead-based paint education booklet in any sale.
Thinking of Stucco?
Many newer homes are now being sided with artificial stucco siding, or EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems). This is essentially polystyrene foam with a base coat, reinforcement mesh, then another base coat and then a finishing coat of stucco over the top. This is a terrific product, as it adds insulation value to the home and looks great. However, it can also be a serious and very expensive repair if it isn't installed correctly and/or water gets behind it.
There are several manufacturers of artificial stucco, and many builders installing it. Having it inspected allows you to know if there is a problem, and even if there isn't, you will be aware of the areas you need to keep caulked, and what to look for in case of trouble.
You will spot several different types of plumbing systems in any housing market, including our own. Copper, galvanized, rigid plastic, polybutylene, and soft plastic are but a few. Certain systems are more prone to having certain problems.
Galvanized water pipe is most prone to rusting on the horizontal surfaces (such as under a floor) versus vertical surfaces (running up a wall) and it corrodes from the inside out. Some rigid plastic systems have been recalled, while others have fared very well.
The most reliable types seem to be made of copper, but again there can be issues to check: are the hangers plastic lined? Are there any lead solder joints? A good home inspector can help you identify any problem areas before you buy. There are several reputable inspectors in our area that we would be happy to recommend.
Home Heating Sources
Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you'll ever make in your home. Heating and cooling accounts for 44% of your home's energy use. Various systems include electric, gas, propane, oil, and even wood-fired.
The method of distribution can be forced air, under floor boilers and pipes, baseboard, zonal, gravity, heat pumps, ceiling wires and, of course, wood stove and fireplace. Some have higher purchase prices, while others cost more to maintain or operate.
The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run and the lower your utility bills. Use this knowledge to evaluate the asking price of any home. You'll be money ahead as you factor its heat source into any offer!
The type of wiring in residential homes generally depends on when the home was built, where it was built and if it has been updated. In the older homes, knob and tube type wiring was the norm, replaced later by encased plastic-sheathed wiring.
In most cases the newer plastic-sheathed wiring is copper, insulated with plastic and then wrapped with insulation and another layer of plastic for protection. Breaker boxes are another story; sometimes a well-meaning home owner can inadvertently make things unsafe.
It is always wise to consult a reputable home inspector and even an electrician before you buy. A little homework today can save you a lot of money down the road.
What About Asbestos?
Asbestos is a common insulator used in many homes, and was used for everything from siding to tape wrapping for furnace air ducts and even sometimes in "popcorn" ceilings. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and when exposed, tiny particles can be released into the air you breathe. There are several remedies that range from the simple to the complex.
Many sales agreements mention asbestos by saying "the buyer is aware asbestos may be used in the construction of this home." This can be a little unsettling.
Your home inspector can tell you if asbestos is present in easily visible places such as siding, taping, and insulation, and recommend remedies if necessary.