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The Un-SEXY, Most Valuable Home Repair

If you have watched any home repair shows on TV the Sexy home improvements get a lot of hype. With some paint and new flooring you can make dramatic changes. Then you can invite your friends over to sip a glass of wine and tell you how beautiful your project turned out.  But what they might not see is your foundation is deteriorating beneath them.  

 

Sadly the most important home repair will not WOW your friends, but will save you costly future repairs and contribute to the overall value of your home.

 

I have seen a lot of potential buyers walk away from some very SEXY houses because of signs of a neglected foundation.   Basements that have: Efflorescence (white powdery/chalky residue forms on basement walls), cracks and/or signs of movement, mold and standing water.

Today’s topic is about foundation protection. (sexy right?)

 

What is the problem?

The part of the country I live in has very heavy clay soil.  When the hole is dug for the foundation it essentially creates a large clay bowl.  The foundation is poured and then some sort of fill is put in around the house between the “clay bowl” and the foundation.  When moisture penetrates the fill, it has nowhere to go because it is in the “clay lined bowl”.  The ground freezes and thaws adding insult to injury.  

Number one enemy to your foundation is moisture.

 

What is the cure?

The most effective cure is to create a slope of topsoil away from your house.  This is known as grading.  Of all the homes I have sold that the buyers have had a home inspection, 99 out of 100 get tagged for negative grading.  Which means the soil slopes toward the foundation instead of away.  It may have been graded properly at some point, but over time the backfill settles to create the negative grade.

 

What is the process?

Wayne Allen, from Wisconsin Basement Inspection Services, LLC gives the following instructions:

 

  1. Depending on the elevation of your house you may need to install window wells so you can build up slope around basement windows.
  2. Use pulverized topsoil to build the positive grade of a 4-inch drop over four feet (an inch per foot). Leave soil a minimum of 1-2’ below your siding.
  3. Thoroughly tamp the soil either with a hand tamper or a rented gas powered tamper, which is faster and more efficient. You’ll notice the soil will compress with tamping immediately. Add more dirt and repeat until the downward slope is accomplished.
  4. Cover the tamped soil with 10 mil+ plastic sheeting up to the basement walls and up on the walls 1-2 inches. Secure the plastic sheeting with plastic spikes (staples) from a hardware store every two feet along the wall or walls in question.
  5. Then cover the plastic sheeting with decorative stone to your liking. Remember the stone only has to cover the plastic so it looks good, it doesn’t need to be several inches thick.  Stone is preferable to mulch because it: does not attract bugs, stays in place during heavy rains and is easy to blow debris out with a leaf blower.
  6. General items: Replace or level all concrete that slopes toward a foundation wall.  If you do the work yourself it costs much less or hire a local handyman the cost is more but still much less than a landscape company. If a decorative border is used at the lower end of the grade don’t make it a dam. Have occasional breaks like you would have with paver blocks to let water escape during rain or snow melt so it continues away from the structure and can evaporate or follow the path of least resistance away from your home. If there is a crown that sends water back to the graded area it should be cut down or a swale put in to move water away from the area.
  7. Final step is to make sure sump pump discharge and gutter downspouts extend well beyond the 4 foot slope

For the price of some dirt, plastic and decorative stone you can avoid thousands of dollars (easily up to $25,000) in costly basement repairs. After you are done invite your friends over anyway- maybe they won’t marvel at a perfectly graded home, but they may need to do the same to their home.

The Little House On the Channel-The Engagement Party Completed

 

We hosted an engagement party for 110 people at our 780 Square foot home on the channel.  If you don’t know about The Little House on The Channel click here to read more about it.

Earlier I had shared with how I hoped it would turn out- you can read about my vision for it here.

I believe it turned out better than I had even hoped!  First of all I did not imagine the beautiful white tent extending our indoor living space from the garage by 512 square feet.  I want to give a huge shout out to fellow realtor Dina Mitchell who read my original post and graciously offered the use of her tent.   Not only did it add usable square footage but also it truly made the entire affair feel more formal.  It turned a driveway into a banquet hall.

 

We put the tables in the tent with white tablecloths.  I purchased bud vases in varying heights and colors from the thrift stores and borrowed a few from my sister.  Lace runners were borrowed from another friend.  We ran the large patio lights in the tent- it was beautiful.

As I stated in my earlier post I am not a fan of having a party in the garage.  I had hoped ” for airy, white, spring feel.”  I believe I achieved that- take a look at the photos.  We hung white icicle lights (a lot of them- some ours, some borrowed) behind the white sheets with lace over the sheets.  My son and his lovely bride to-be hung photos of themselves on long gold cords over the lace.

My husband was going to remove his table saw and a few other pieces from the garage.  He did not have to; we were able to use them as part of the buffet table.  

I covered the buffet tables with the white sheets.  I like to build height on my buffet table.  I used cake pans, bricks, wooden boxes & cardboard boxes for my height; then covered them in sheets and lace.

One of the items left at the Little House when we purchased it (click here to learn more about The Little House on The Channel-Squeezing In) was random pieces of slate.  We had no idea what we would do with them but it was one of the things we just could not get rid of.  My husband came up with the idea to clean one of them up and use it as a cheese tray.  

I borrowed glass trays from friends and family  (because I had purged a number of mine).  We rented chafing dishes for the hot food.

It really was a perfect day.  It did not rain.  It was warm enough so people could sit on the patio and the deck.  People enjoyed long conversations outside and in the tent.  

My son and his fiancé were able to enjoy a relaxed day visiting with family and friends.  

My advice when hosting a large party at your house?  Plan well in advance so you know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.  I love to use excel spreadsheets for event like this so I have all my thoughts, tasks and lists in one place.  Most importantly enlist the help of family and friends.  Sometimes the real connections can happen during the hard preparatory work.  And the day was made that much sweeter knowing how many hands had helped make it happen!  

 

Desperately Looking for a House?

As a buyer you may be feeling panicked.  A house shows up on-line, you are sure it is “the one”.  You excitedly dial the number, you get a live voice, you ask if you can set up a showing and then you hear those very, very sad words:  “Sorry that house has an accepted offer”.  You may have already sold your home or your lease is soon to be up and you NEED a place to live.

 

This is the craziest market I have seen in my 12 years of real estate. Homes are getting multiple offers, sometimes in a matter of hours of going “live” on the market.   According to my brokers, who have been in the business for 30 years, this may be the lowest amount of inventory they have ever seen.  

 

What can you do as a buyer to navigate this current housing market?

  1. Get your pre-approval.  You will need to know your pre-approval amount prior to making an offer.  If you are putting an offer in on a home and you know there are other offers coming in it would be wise to submit the pre-approval with the offer.

 

  1. Don’t trust the on-line real estate sites.  Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com are liars.  They don’t mean to, but they do.  These websites will continue to show properties as active even though they have offers.  They will show them as active/available until they close.  Why? Because in our multiple listing service agents don’t mark their listings as “pending”.  We mark them as “Active with Bump”(has an accepted offer but buyer has a home to sell) or  “Active without Bump”(has an accepted offer and buyer DOES not have a home to sell).  The labels we use do not translate to the labels the on-line sites use.   

 

  1. Find one agent you trust and work exclusively with that agent.  Why?  Agents have the ability to see the new listings as soon as they come live on the multiple listing service.  In fact, we can set you up to receive those new listings as well…even before Zillow knows about them.  Most real estate offices also have a board of new listings. An agent who is working hard for you will be checking the board daily. I have even been known to knock on a few doors to see if people are interested in selling.  

 

  1. Be prepared to pay full asking price or possibly even over list price.  Many homes are getting multiple offers with-in hours of listing.  I have written offers for buyers for $5000 over asking price, strong buyers with 40% down, and they did not get the home.  If you want a “deal” on a house this may not be the right time for you to be attempting to purchase a home.

 

  1. Keep in mind every $1000 of offer price equals about $5 per month in your mortgage payment.  For example the difference in your mortgage payment if you pay $100,000 for the home versus $105,000 is $25 per month.  My advice to buyers when writing offers when multiple offers are coming in for the property is to decide what price you will offer that if you DON’T get the home you won’t be sad in the morning.  You won’t be saying: “ if we had only offered $1000 more”.

 

  1. However don’t get into an auction mentality and overpay for a home.  Make sure you have a highest and best amount in mind that you will pay for that home when you start the offer process.   I always ask my buyers to think about re-sale.  How long do you plan to own the home?  If you pay top dollar for a home today and have to sell it in 2 years you may not re-coup your investment.

 

  1. You will have to list your home and most likely have an offer on it before you can write an offer on another home.  I know that is a scary thought, what if there are no homes for you once you have an offer??  But with the amount of offers coming in on properties most sellers will not accept an offer contingent on the sale of your home.  If you have an offer on your current home you are contingent on a successful closing.   They are a few other creative ideas that I use when listing homes- call me and I would be happy to discuss them with you.  

 

If you are thinking of selling there has not been a better market in years.  If you are trying to buy…hang in there, you will find one.  

 

THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE CHANNEL-AN ENGAGEMENT PARTY

If you have not read any of my other posts about “The Little House on The Channel” you would not know that my house is 780 Sq Feet.  Not a tiny house because those are typically under 400 Square feet, but small nonetheless.  

(check out my Little House category for more Little House on the Channel information).

 

We are hosting an engagement party at our home in the middle of April.  We live in Wisconsin.  The middle of April could be 70 degrees and sunny but most likely will be 40 degrees and raining.  We are expecting approximately 75 people.  We like a challenge!

 

In our part of the country having parties in your garage is acceptable.  I am not a fan. However, I have no choice if I want to host it at my home.  I am a fan of having lots of friends and family at my house.  Therefore, we will be relying on our garage again for additional living space (see: Little House on The Channel –Hosting Toddlers).  

 

My goal is to have the party in the garage but not feel like you are in a garage. I am hoping for airy, white, spring feel.

 

My husband and brother–in-law came up with a way to hang curtains to cover the shelving units and the workbench.  We found 30 white twin sheets on craigslist that we will hang as curtains.  We ordered curtain clips from Ikea to hang said sheets from the cable.  I have been scouring thrift stores for lace tablecloths and curtains to hang with the sheets.  There will be white icicle lights involved somehow behind the curtains and the large bulb patio lights strung from the ceiling.  

 

My husband stained the concrete garage floor a very pretty marble looking brown.  We even have a large print to hang on the one wall that will not get the curtains.    We will have fresh tulips, white tablecloths, my very fun painted metal chairs and good food.

 

We will hope for no rain so that we can have a fire in the fire pit and use the restaurant style heat lamp we purchased.  Maybe it will be warm enough that people can lounge on the patio in their spring jackets.  Some may even see if they can catch a fish in the channel.

 

Of course I am letting you in on all the plans.  I will post again after so you and I can both compare how my thoughts lined up with reality.    Stay Tuned!!

The Little House On The Chanel: Re-Purpose, Recycle, Re-Use

 

Re-Purpose,, recycle, Re-use, these are very popular words.  Pinterest has a plethora of ideas on how to repurpose items, HGTV shows are always showing ideas with recycled pieces, even retail stores are selling items claiming repurposed.  

 

When we purchased the little house it came with most of the former owner’s possessions.  There was 30+ years worth of stuff we needed to sort through.  Click here to see how we tackled the job of sorting all the stuff.

The large majority of items we got rid of.  There were a few pieces of furniture we kept, some dishes, a few antiques and a few unique items.  The most unique item we found was lying in the dirt behind the bushes in the front of the house.  It was a long metal piece with some detailing on it and words.  Here is a picture:

                                        

These words are in the middle of the beam.  We did a little research on-line and it appears this was the decorative back piece for a mortising machine for making doors and windows.  Our best guess is it came from one of the old window/door/furniture factories in Oshkosh.  We weren’t really sure what we would do it with it when found it, but we knew we did not want to get rid of it.

 

We also found old wood siding, some of the original siding from when the home was just a flat roofed boathouse.  We kept that as well.  As we designed the remodel we knew we wanted to use both of these finds in the interior somehow.  

 

I really wanted a sliding barn door.  Because of the lack of doors our only option was on the bathroom door.  This was a perfect place for one because it gave us more useable space on the inside of the bathroom.  We looked at numerous options for a barn door but we were having difficulty finding one that fit.  The ceiling height by the bathroom door is only 7’6’, meaning our door needed to be shorter than usual.  

 

I may have mentioned before but I do have a very handy husband.  He decided he could make a barn door out of the wood siding we found.  The wood was already a weathered red color.  He cleaned it up, put together a fabulous door and finished it with a matte varnish.   We brought gate rollers back from Africa with us and we now have a recycled barn door.

 

The big concern was how would we ‘lock ‘ the door.  We knew guests would not be comfortable if they could not lock it.  That is where the metal piece comes in!  We realized the metal piece would be a perfect fit for the sliding door.  See the photo:

 

 

We repurposed the metal piece as the “stopper” for the door.

 

We wire brushed the metal, scrubbed it and then put this magic oil on it called “Kramer’s Best Antique Improver” (find it at : kramerize.com) It made the dry metal come alive again!  As we were cleaning it we noticed red splotches on it.  We attempted to sand them out.  Then we realized it was most likely drips of the paint from the siding of the house, so we left them.  

 

Probably our favorite part of the remodel is the barn door.  Not only because Wade built it but also because the wood came from the original house.  The metal piece looks like it was always in that spot.  We like it because it is unique.  

 

I think repurposing, re-using and recycling are great!  I like to have pieces in my home that you can’t pick up at the big box stores.  Let your home be a reflection of you and your family.  Maybe the buffet from your grandma is not in keeping with the latest trend on HGTV, who cares!  If you like it and it brings you joy, then use it.

 

How Many Square Feet do You Need?

 

According to a heat map study shown in “Minimalism, A Documentary About Important Things” (Find at: minimalismfilm.com) Americans only use about 40% of our living spaces regularly.   The map shows most of the activity in the kitchen/ dining area, then the family room and bathroom. The remainder of the rooms shows minimal use.

Do you have a formal living and dining that you only use on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Square feet in laundry rooms and ‘spare” bedrooms that go underused – space wasted most or all of the year?  The fact that a room is called a dining room or formal living room does not mean that’s the only function you can do there.  

I think this is a great time of year to rethink your rooms.  The snow is falling, the Packers lost and the Spring market is about to begin.  Now may be a perfect time to decide if you “Love It or List It”.  Can you use your space in a different way or is it time to make a move, open a new door?

Formal living room                                                                                                 

Are you a book junkie? Is your family musically inclined? Do you craft or sew?  Do you love to play board games. Consider lining the walls of this room with bookshelves or shelving with attractive doors to hide items.  Place your piano or other instruments in this room.  Add some fun wingback chairs and maybe a writing desk or a game table.

When our children were growing up we had a room that we called the talking room.  There were no electronics allowed in this area. When our boys were little that is where we would listen to them practice reading.  As they grew up we would have reading time together so no one was tempted to watch TV instead of doing homework.  When we had company we would often take the adults to that room while the children played in the living room.  We had many great conversations in that room with our children and with guests.

Formal Dining Room                                                                                       

Probably the number one room I hear homeowners say they never use is the formal dining room. Consider turning this space into a home office or study. More and more people are able to work at home, at least part of the time.  Managing a household generates papers, files and bills galore. Children also benefit from a designated study area for homework and school projects.

Obviously with Wi-Fi and laptops, all these work and study activities can happen anywhere in a home.  But designating one room as the study/work zone may help everyone stay focused and keep the paperwork to one area.

Tiny Bedroom                                                                                                                  

If you have a bedroom so tiny that it’s barely fits a twin bed consider turning it into a walk-in closet or additional bathroom.  Converting to a closet can be as easy as hanging shelving and rods.  Then when you go to sell if the new owner needs it as a bedroom it is easy to convert back.  If you have a little money to invest and could use an extra bathroom, a too-small bedroom makes for a good, efficient bathroom – especially if it’s located next to another bathroom, so the plumbing already exists.

Laundry Room                                                                                                      

Just because the name of the room starts with laundry that is not the only activity that can happen in this room.  Many homes have laundry rooms with a plethora of cupboard space.  Consider storing board games here, your sewing machine and supplies.  You could even put your printer in this room if you have counter space.  

LIST IT                                                                                            

Or have you decided your home does not fit the way you live?  Give me a call! I will provide you with a market analysis so you know the value of your home in today’s market.  Then get it ready for sale.  Click here for ideas on getting your home ready to sell.

We can find you a home that fits the way you live in the amount of square feet you need.

Getting Your Home Ready for Sale- Easy Fixes That Are Worth The Time

 

Getting ready to put your home on the market?  De-cluttered and clean is a must.  But what else can you do to make your home really shine?  There are easy fixes that aren’t big WOW’s, but will make your home show better.

 

Woodwork with scratches, nicks and general wear and tear scream “I am neglected”! (really what it is saying is I am not new- but a buyer sees neglect)  A few hours with a bottle of Old English Scratch Cover will do wonders.  It comes in two different colors, light and dark. Check out their website for tips and instructions.  (http://www.oldenglishpolish.com/sf2_scratch.shtml )

 

Cleaning light switch plate covers may sound a little OCD but dirty cover plates make buyers start to think about the overall cleanliness of the house.  Buyers often will assist agents turning lights on and off during the showings so they are looking at the plate covers.  Your 13 year old armed with a bottle of spray cleaner and a paper towel can make a significant improvement.

 

Crooked paint lines at the ceiling, smears of wall color on the ceiling and paint on the trim says “I did all the painting myself”.  The potential buyer now is questioning the quality of the remodel of the basement.  Take the time to fix these items.  If you did do the painting yourself and it looks like it, hire a professional.  

 

Clean your gutters and the front entrance to your home.  Gutters filled with leaves and small trees cause the buyer to start to look for other items of deferred maintenance.  Change furnace filters, replace burnt out light bulbs, clean the cobwebs in the basement and kill the weeds in the sidewalk and driveway.  

 

If you have an unfinished project, finish it.  Trim not finished because you put down new flooring, nail holes not filled on trim or woodwork, caulking not completed in bathrooms and kitchens all say to the new buyer “You will have projects as soon as you get the keys”.  This does make most buyers excited.  

 

Getting a home ready to sell takes some work.  I strongly believe it is worth the effort, time and expense.  I have seen homes receive significantly less than they could have if they had only been clean, de-cluttered and spruced up.   

 

The Little House on the Channel- Overnight Guests

 

Have I mentioned my house is 780 Square feet with 1 bedroom and 1½ baths?  Not a house most people would consider having overnight company.  Obviously we are not most people.  We love to entertain and have family and friends spend the night so we needed to come up with a plan.

 

We do have a large 2.5 car garage.  Thankfully during the remodel we put in new windows, doors and insulated it. Wade put in a heater so he could work on projects in the winter. He reinforced the floor joists for the attic space and put stairs in so we could store items above the garage.  It is really quite roomy up there, actually big enough for 2 twin beds, a dresser, even a port-a-crib …hmmm a place where visitors can sleep.   

 

We sectioned off an area in the middle of the upstairs of the garage, put in walls, carpet, trim, a door.  There is enough room on the sides for storage.  There is even enough room before you enter the little room for a couch, rocking chair, end table and a TV. Once you are up there you don’t even feel like you are in a garage.  One of our guests started calling it the Annex.  We are now calling it that because we think that sounds better than a room above a garage.  

 

I know some of you are asking what about a bathroom?  For the most part it is our sons who use this area when they are visiting.  They are young and male and therefore middle of the night visits are not required.  However I have slept out there when we have given our room up to company.  The solution was to order a portable toilet and pop up privacy tent.  The great thing is now in the summer we will be able to bring along on the pontoon boat for the coffee cruises!

 

The Annex is not for everyone.  A few of our guests have slept on cots or our couch in the living room.  The living room sleeping guests have to basically not mind being in the same room as Wade and I.  Other guests have arrived in time for the coffee cruise in the morning; stayed until the sunset cruise at night and then happily retreated to a hotel nearby.   

 

We love our Little House on the Channel.  We continue to learn new ways to “stretch” our space and enjoy it with others.  We have learned that even though we are not big on square footage we can still go big on hospitality.

 

Senior Series- Warning Signs That Independent Living is no Longer Safe

Watching your mom & dad age can be difficult. The realization that living independently may no longer be a choice for them can be heartbreaking for all involved.  What are some warning signs that they may need assistance?

 

  1. Bruising

       Your parent may not be telling they are experiencing more falls, but their  skin may show signs of it.  Older skin bruises more easily and may show signs that they are bumping into things, becoming increasingly unsteady or falling.

  1. Food Crisis

Is there outdated food in the fridge or on the pantry shelf?  Or is there not enough food on the shelves to sustain life? The elder person may not be able to shop or cook or clean like they once did.

  1. Unpaid bills

Are you noticing stacks of mail where there was once complete organization? Your parents may not be able to tend to paperwork and bills due to a multitude of reasons- poor vision, declining memory or depression.

  1. Odor

Is your parent having difficulty with hygiene or a health issue that is causing an odor?  Remember that decrease in the ability to smell is part of the aging process.  Or is it that they are unable to keep up with cleaning of their home?

  1. Overall Messiness in Home

Are you noticing more piles?  Piles of magazines, clothes, undone laundry?  Maybe your parent is having more difficulty moving around and therefore regular household chores become difficult.  

 

What should you do if you are noticing these signs?  

  1. Have someone other than you assess the situation.  A medical check up may be necessary.  A physician can do both a physical and mental examination.  Don’t forget to have eyes and ears checked as well.  
  2. In Wisconsin every county has an Aging and Disability Resource Center-ADRC.  They are a wealth of information.  They can do a general assessment of the senior and their needs and then make recommendations for services.  Keep in mind not all services come with a cost.
  3. Let your parent know that you don’t want to intrude but you are genuinely concerned for their health and safety and want to help them fInd solutions that help them stay in their home longer and remain safe.  
  4. Start the discussion EARLY of what the future may look like. Discuss what their wishes are when it is necessary for them to move into a different living situation.  

The little House on the Channel- Hosting Toddlers

In December we not only had 2 additional adults stay for a week, but we also hosted a 2 and 4 year-old.  As you may have heard we had one of the warmest Novembers on record.  We had visions of campfires on the patio, snowman building, sledding-you know fun outdoor winter activities for the kids.  It was warm right up until 2 days before they arrived. The temperatures were in the single digits with below zero wind chills while they were visiting.

 

The biggest concern was what to do with all the energy that comes with toddlers.    600 square feet on the first floor of the little house does not leave a lot of running room (especially with my Christmas tree up and decorated with the glass ornaments). The frigid temps limited outdoor play.  

 

So does my car really need a roof over it?  The answer was no.  We cleared out as much space as we could on the first floor of the garage, bought the patio furniture in, and a play area was born!  We borrowed a riding car from a friend and invested in a big wheel.  We borrowed a train set from friends.  My husband filled an empty toolbox with real tools and he turned a refrigerator box into a garage for the riding toys.  The toddlers spent hours playing in the garage.

 

I also cleaned out one of my little storage areas upstairs in our bedroom.  It is an area of the house where the roof slants down.  I put down a sleeping bag and placed pillows and books in there.  The older child was allowed to go up there while the younger one was napping to play quietly, read and/or take a nap.  (The child will never admit to falling asleep up there- but it happened)

 

I moved all of my breakable ornaments to the top of the tree, got out the plastic plates and cups and put away other items that I would have been sad if they had accidently been broken.  

 

We had a great week, lots of laughing, and snuggling and “fixing” things with the tools.  I am so happy we could figure out the space to accommodate our dear friends and their children.  

 

I think no matter what size your home is you can host overnight guests even if they bring toddlers!  The key is making the space work so they feel welcome and comfortable.