Hello my Homeowner friend.
 
So that you know…
 
Radon is a silent home danger in a lot of homes in the Atlanta Metro area.  Unless the home has been tested, most homeowners don’t realize that their homes have elevated levels of radon gas.  You cannot smell, taste, or see radon gas.  The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths.  Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in the air.
 
Homes built on crawlspaces are more likely to test high for radon because there is no barrier to prevent the gas coming from the ground into the home. 
 
During the home inspection process, more home buyers are opting to have a radon gas test performed.  Call a home inspector for more information, and to schedule a home test.  Bill Garwood of Edifice Home Inspections ( 770-594-2222 ) or Bob McDonough of National Property Inspections ( 770-656-2209 ) can help.  If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, radon test kits can be purchased at your local hardware store or home renovation outlets for about $10. 
 
If your radon test results are at 4 pCi/L or higher, a radon mitigation system is recommended.  Even though the mitigation system is warranted to work, once the mitigation system is in place, you’ll have another test performed by a third party testing company.  For more details on the mitigation process, call Paul Sather at Metro Atlanta Radon Mitigation.  404-549-8700.
 
See the following governmental link for more information. 
 
Be Safe and Enjoy your home.
 
Norm.
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Does the make and model of the car really matter?

As a homeowner, or a home buyer, when you are ready to interview agents to buy or sell a home, does it matter to you what kind of car the agent drives?

Assume for a minute that all real estate agents are created equal. They are all of the same age. They all have the same training and intelligence. They all have the same amount of common sense. And they all look and dress and walk and talk the same.
Will you be more likely to list the home with an agent that drives a Mercedes than with an agent that drives a nice Volvo?

Are you more likely to look at homes to buy with an agent that picks you up in a Mercedes rather than one that picks you up in a very nice Buick?

Please, tell me what you think… Please be frank, and please be honest.

Ginkgo1Atlanta Trees

When thinking about what tree to plant in your front yard, consider the space first.  Trees grow over time.   Even though the tree may look small today, over the years it will grow and expand.

The choice of the right tree depends mainly on the location; will it be next to a street, a sidewalk or a driveway?  How much room is there to expand; how high and how wide.  Do you have neighbors to consider?   Will it be under power, cable or phone lines?   Is the planting spot damp or dry most of the time?  Do you want a fast-growing tree or one that will grow slowly over the years?  Is the spot shady?  Do you want a deciduous tree or an evergreen variety?  What is your desired shape for this tree?  Do you want it as a wind block?  Do you want a tree with a certain flower, fruit or nut?

For the front yard, two of the best trees to plant would be a Japanese Maple or an Oak.  The Japanese Maple is a slow grower and a very colorful and hardy tree.   The Oaks are perennial favorites in Atlanta because of their hardiness and symmetrical shape.  An Oak is a great choice because it’s a very hard hardwood tree and it’s very durable in all kinds of weather.  Oaks come in many varieties. You can choose a Water Oak, a Pin Oak, a Red Oak, or any one of several other varieties; all good.  An Oak is typically a slow growing tree, so future generations will be glad you chose to plant an Oak tree today.  Oaks have a very symmetrical shape.  Their leaves in the Fall range from yellows to dark purples.

Be aware that most varieties do have acorns, and they will drop the acorns in late Summer and early Autumn.  The roots of an Oak tree grow downward and will not damage the yard or nearby driveways or streets, like Maple trees and Pine trees do.  Water it very well the first year and it’ll be maintenance-free thereafter.

An Oak tree is an excellent choice for your front yard!

Other good choices might be, depending on the issues above, a Beech tree, a Honey Locust, a Cottonwood tree, an Ash tree, a Poplar, an Elm, a Sourwood, or a Ginkgo tree.  Ginkgo trees have a very interesting shape, grow quickly, and have a spectacular yellow color in the fall.   But, only plant the male version as the fruit of the female version smells terrible and drops everywhere in the fall.

Seven of the worst trees to plant would be a Magnolia, a Bradford Pear, a Sweetgum, a Mimosa, a Birch tree, a Black Locust, or any variety of a Maple tree.

Willows, Maples, Magnolias, and Pines have roots running across and just under the surface of a yard, so they are not good choices near streets, driveways, pipelines, or in yards that have to be maintained.  The root systems that run along the surface of the ground make any kind of yard maintenance nearby very difficult.

The Magnolia has been called a “trash tree” because it constantly drops leathery leaves that never disintegrate and pine cone-like seed pods that also never disintegrate.   Because it is an evergreen, it’s difficult to get grass to grow near a Magnolia.

The Sweetgum is a shapely tree with star-shaped leaves that are beautiful and the autumn color is appealing, but they are extremely messy; always dropping those annoying spiny, prickly seed balls that never disintegrate.

The Bradford Pear stinks in the spring when blooming, and they are very brittle to any winds.

The Black Locust tree is very weather-susceptible and messy.  It constantly drops seed pods, and thorny branches & twigs.

All Birch trees are messy and brittle in the wind or storms, as are the Mimosas.

Other small favorites to plant would be a Dogwood, a Redbud, or a Flowering Cherry or Plum tree.

Atlanta is very-well known nationwide for it’s incredible tree canopies. Before cutting any trees, be sure to check with your county arborist for any permits required.  For tree maintenance and tree removal, contact Jonathan Potts at Gunnison Tree Specialists.  His number is 404-351-8929.

Different Appraisal Types

By: D. Scott Murphy, SRA 

One of the most common questions I am asked when I speak to groups or teach a class is – what is the difference in a refinance appraisal and a purchase appraisal?  Or, do you appraise a property differently for an individual that you would for a bank?  Or clients will call and request an appraisal be done like we would for a refinance or a purchase.

The bottom line is that most appraisals are more alike than you might think.  With only a few exceptions, the vast majority of appraisals are to estimate market value of the subject property as of the day the appraiser inspects the property.  That is, what would the property sell for on that date?

The definition of market value is “the most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.”   Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:

1)  Buyer and seller are typically motivated;

2)  Both parties are well-informed or well-advised, and acting in what they consider their own best interests;

3)  A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market;

4)  Payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and

5)  The price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.” (FIRREA – SOURCE: The provisions of this Part 323 appear at 55 Fed. Reg. 33888, August 20, 1990, effective September 19, 1990, except as otherwise noted)

Unless the appraiser is asked for another type of value, every appraisal should be based on this common definition.  Examples of other types of value are retrospective – the client wants to know the value of the property as of a previous date, this is common in tax appeal work where the value would be January 1st of a given year.  Quick sale or liquidation value – the client wants to know what the property would be worth if the marketing time were to be reduced.  Another valuation which often gets confused is the value of a property for relocation purposes.

In a standard relocation appraisal, the appraiser completes an ERC appraisal report which does not ask the appraiser to arrive at a market value as of the date of inspection but an anticipated net sales price so many days in the future ( typically 90 or 120 days. ) There are a number of other specialty valuations which are done based on the agreed scope of the appraisal but these are not common and certainly are not done for typical mortgage appraisal purposes..

The other question that comes up is why are refinance appraisals always higher than other types of appraisals? I can understand why this is a common misconception because there may have been some truth to it in the past. I hate to say it but we saw many appraisers, pressured by lenders and homeowners, tend to stretch the value when completing a refinance appraisal. This caused many people to be upside down with regards to the relationship between their mortgage balance and true market value.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether an appraisal is done for a divorce, a refinance, a purchase, pre-listing, or any other matter where the objective is to arrive at the current market value – the outcome or resulting value should be the same.  It does not matter if it is a desktop appraisal, a drive-by appraisal, a full appraisal completed on a standard form, or a full-blown narrative report, the resulting value should be the same.

Appraisers are licensed and bound by the rules of the state for which the property is located. They are also governed by a set of national standards called USPAP ( Uniform Standards of Professional Practice. )  There are certain instances when the appraiser can deviate from the USPAP rules but for simplicity the point is all appraisers must follow the same rules and standards. This applies to how the property is measured to how the comparables are located.  It applies to which approaches to value are to be used and when certain approaches can be eliminated.

As a very generalized statement, the appraiser goes through the exact same process with every single appraisal assignment and should arrive at the same value regardless of the intended use of the appraisal. The difference is in the appraisal assignment type. If it is a drive-by the fee might be lower because the appraiser does not inspect the interior of the property and does not have to measure the property. That time savings translates to a lower fee.

However, the appraiser still researches the comparables the same way, makes the same adjustments and arrives at the same value. He has to make certain assumptions about condition, quality and amenities and relies on public data for physical information such as square footage and room count. The client is aware that a drive-by might be less reliable than a full appraisal and the appraiser outlines any assumptions he has made in his report.

If you were to have a pre-listing appraisal done one day, a refinance appraisal done the next day and a purchase appraisal done the following day – all should arrive at a similar value. The reason I did not say “the same value”, is that an appraisal is an estimate of market value. Appraising is not a perfect science. There is an element of art was well as the fact that the market is not perfect. Homes do not sell for a specified price or X% of the list price.  However, these three appraisals should be within a reasonable range – which is generally thought to be 5-8%+/- of each other.

So while there are a variety of uses for an appraisal and there are a variety of forms and formats the appraisals are presented in, for the most part, the appraiser is striving to report the true market value of the subject property as of the date of the inspection. I am sure I have said this in previous articles, but appraisers need to remember that they do not determine market value they interpret market value. I see more variance in appraised values on the same property due to appraisers who do not understand this fact and who do not accurately research the market, the type of appraisal, or the purpose of the appraisal.

I declare that July is National Pick-a-Project Month.
Every homeowner, and home renter, has a list of projects, things to be done around the house.  ( and, for some reason, the list never shrinks, it only expands. )  When people buy a home, they usually get a home inspection done prior to the closing.  The home inspector provides a list of things that should be either repaired or replaced; this becomes the homeowners to-do list.  But too often that report is filed away in a drawer and never seen again until the owner decides to sell the home.
Most of the time, homeowners simply procrastinate until something happens, and sometimes something bad happens.   So start with the safety issues first.
Repair the deck stairs or handrail, replace the defective GFCI outlet in the kitchen, replace an old, outdated bathroom light fixture, replace an old ceiling fan that no longer works, change out the brown outlets in the living room for the ivory-colored ones, clean the dryer exhaust vent, re-paint the dining room, add new shelving inside a closet, replace a very old toilet with with a new high-efficiency one, power-wash the exterior of the house, re-caulk the bathroom tub, or add light fixtures in the crawl space.
If you need help changing the doorlocks on your home, call Matt Lankford at Realty Locksmith; 770.778.7621.
If you want help with some electrical projects, call Jack Richardson at Brookhaven Electrical Services; 404.843.9711.
If you have some roof leaks, call Aaron Morrison at Arison Exteriors; 678.333.4805.
And, you’ll sleep better each night knowing that all of your projects have been completed.
All the best throughout the rest of 2014.
Norm.
ps:  I do have lists of resource people to help; plumbers, roofers, electricians and more.   A lot of them are listed on my website at HomesAboveTheNorm.com
Just let me know what you need.  Thanks.

Most estate, wills and trusts attorneys will tell you:  I get asked by a lot of people  “Why should I have a will, I’m single?”   Well, just because you are single does not mean you do not have property or assets that should be protected.  In addition, estate planning includes more than just having a will.  It includes planning for health care decisions ( remember the Terri Schiavo case in Florida!? ) or designating someone as power of attorney to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated or become incompetent.

From the website, NoLo.com:  ” A will is an essential back-up device for property that you don’t transfer to yourself as trustee. For example, if you acquire property shortly before you die, you may not think to transfer ownership of it to your trust — which means that it won’t pass under the terms of the trust document. But in your will, you can include a clause that names someone to get all of the property that you haven’t left to a specific beneficiary.

If you don’t have a will, any property that isn’t transferred by your living trust or other probate-avoidance device ( such as joint tenancy ) will go to your closest relatives in an order determined by state law.  These laws may not distribute property in the way you would have chosen.

For more on wills, see Nolo’s Wills FAQ.  And to see everything Nolo has to offer when it comes to planning your estate, visit Nolo’s Wills, Trusts & Estates Center. “

Anyone that owns a home, paid for or not, especially needs a will.  You don’t want the state to dispose of your possessions without your input.

No one likes to think about their eventual demise, but it is important to plan for the future.   You’ll sleep better at night knowing your assets are protected and that you have a plan in place in case of an accident.   Call me for the names of some very-qualified attorneys to help you draft a very solid will.

Here’s a guide to get you started.  When trying to sell a home, these are the most-requested features that buyers want to see:

The Hot List of Features in Resale Homes

Renovated Kitchen – for all buyers, the number 1 room in the house

Renovated Bathrooms –  for all buyers, the number 2 room in the house

Refinished Hardwood Floors

Fresh Neutral Paint – use the same color throughout the house to make it look even bigger

New Windows or Energy-Efficient Windows – energy efficiency is on everyone’s mind these days

New HVAC

New Roof – this is one of the initial curb appeal features

New Concrete Board Siding

Finished Basement – include some storage areas

New Deck – outdoor entertaining spaces is very high on every wish list

Nice Landscaping – another initial curb appeal feature

New Light Fixtures / Recessed Lighting

New Driveway

Home Office – these days a lot of people work from home, even if only one or two days per week

Family Room Addition

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