House Inspection: A Real Need Or A Rip-Off?

Obtaining a home inspection is a prudent move for anyone who’s purchasing a home. Whether the home is new, recently built or vintage, a home inspection, while costly, may save money in the future. The average cost for a home inspection is a few hundred dollars — smaller homes cost less, larger homes cost more — and including mold and radon detection in the inspection is more cost-effective than having them done separately.

Isn’t an appraisal enough? No, and an appraisal and a home inspection are two separate entities that have two separate functions. An appraisal, which is required for all types of loans, calculates the market value of the home, based on several criteria. A home inspection, which isn’t required for most types of loans, will evaluate the value of the house based on its condition.

Factors included in a home inspection include:

  • Water damage, which can be indicated by foundation leaks, missing or damaged rain gutters, areas of pooled water, cracks in the foundation and more.
  • The condition of the electrical wiring and the circuit box.
  • The condition of the siding. Serious siding damage could indicate structural damage.
  • Any cracks in the foundation that aren’t caused by water.
  • The condition of the plumbing, pipes, HVAC unit, water heater, and so forth.
  • Any peeling paint. If the house was built before 1978, there could be lead-based paint. If so, it will require remediation in order for the sale to complete.
  • The condition of any outlying buildings and the well, if applicable.
  • The structural beams and the roof. Sometimes, a loose shingle can signal that a new roof is imminently needed.

Although a home inspection may seem like just another unnecessary expense, it can save thousands of dollars for the buyer, particularly for those who are new to the home buying process and may be unaware of negative indicators.

Choosing a reliable home inspector can be difficult because most states don’t require home inspectors to be licensed or to be a licensed contractor. Personal references are usually a source of good information, as is the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List. If a realtor stresses the qualifications of a particular inspection service and castigates others, it may be best to use another service.

Home inspections are invaluable to prospective home buyers but the quality of the report will depend on the quality of the inspector. Thorough research before hiring a home inspector may be time-consuming, but it will yield optimal benefits in the future.


Tips For Evicting A Tenant

Evicting a tenant is one of the more unpleasant aspects of being a landlord, but it is, unfortunately, sometimes necessary. Those landlords who need to evict a tenant must pay assiduous attention to details and legalities or the judge may not uphold the eviction.

The first step in evicting a tenant is to ensure that there have been no violations of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987. Any violations of the tenant’s rights may be cause for a judge to overturn or deny the eviction.

Assuming that there have been no violations of the tenant’s rights and that there is a valid reason for eviction, then the following tips may help ease the eviction process for both the tenant and the landlord.

  • Remain professional, even if or when the tenant resorts to shouting or other unprofessional behavior. An eviction is difficult for the tenant as well as the landlord, so keeping this in mind may help ease tensions.
  • Make sure that the tenant receives the proper notice. Otherwise, the judge may overturn the eviction.  Different notices may require different time frames, so it’s important to provide the tenant with adequate notice.
  • Communicate with the tenant only in writing. This will protect both the landlord and the tenant as well as provide evidence in support of the eviction. It will also eliminate the confrontations that can occur with face-to-face encounters.
  • Don’t harass the tenant or violate their rights.

It’s vital to have a court order for a tenant eviction process, and the order can be filed by the landlord or their attorney. Self-eviction may be perceived as a violation of a tenant’s rights, as can changing the door locks or similar behavior. Items that need to be presented to the judge include:

  • Proof of non-payment of rent, if applicable.
  • Proof that the tenant has violated the terms of their lease. If there has been physical damage, then photos of the damage are needed. If the tenant has violated the rights of other tenants, then affidavits from the other tenants are necessary.
  • A signed copy of the lease agreement and the notices served on the tenant are necessary, as are proofs of service.
  • Bank statements that prove non-payment of rent, if applicable.
  • All written correspondence between the tenant and the landlord.

The landlord needs to present a professional demeanor before the judge, and practicing what you’ll say can help allay any jitters that may be present. Depending on state law and the presiding judge, the tenant may not be required to vacate immediately, so be prepared for this. Above all, try to remain professional and detached, no matter the behavior of the tenant, who may also be present in the courtroom.

Tips For Selling A House For The First Time

Selling a house takes planning, preparation, and timing. Extensive market research can provide valuable insight on the right time to place your home on the market, but you may not be willing or able to wait months for the perfect “buyer’s market.” Instead, as you prepare to sell your home for the first time, there are three elements to remember.

1. Use a Listing Agent

Listing agents offer specialized knowledge and experience with home-selling that will ensure your house is listed at the fairest and accurate price. A standard real estate agent (or your best guess) will not be enough to choose the right sales price for your home. There are many factors to consider, including closing costs, how much you still owe on your mortgage and your desired profit, which will most likely be used to place an offer on your next home and cover moving expenses.

2. Make Sure You Stage Your Home

Houses do better when at least half their furniture is removed, the walls are a neutral color and potential buyers can easily envision themselves in the space. Talk to your agent about the best ways to prepare your home for sale, including any small updates and design changes that will make your property more enticing on the market.

Many of the most effective home-staging tips are affordable and easy; painting will immediately get rid of any unseemly marks, scratches or digs that

3. Accommodate Buyers’ Schedules for Showings

One or two open houses every weekend may not be enough to sell your home. Although it may feel intrusive and somewhat inconvenient, be flexible with your showing hours and allow interested parties to tour your home when they are available. This may mean you free-up a few hours in the evening during the week or allow your agent to show the property on a Saturday morning.

Closing Thoughts

The most important thing you can do during your home-selling journey is being open to change. Your real estate agent should be someone you can communicate comfortably and freely with, whose opinion you respect and who you are willing to listen to. As you prepare to move, make sure you set aside time to focus solely on your own new home hunt and give yourself a much-needed break from worrying about the final sale.

Pittsburgh: Striving for 100% Renewable Energy by 2035

Pittsburgh may be most famous for their sports teams and their reputation as the heart of America’s steel industry. It’s a reputation that would suggest blue collar sensibilities that aren’t necessarily in lockstep with the green energy movement. But Pittsburgh is taking a bold approach to their energy usage. The Steel City has announced a bold initiative that few other metropolises have committed to: transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035.

And while Pittsburgh should be proud of leading the charge in taking a responsible approach to climate change, they aren’t the only city to do so. In the wake of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord, 180 U.S. mayors committed to such a plan.

Mayor Bill Peduto made the announcement in June of 2017 as part of an initiative by the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 plan. This initiative ensures standards that actually go above and beyond the terms of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. And community organizer Eva Resnick-Day highlighted how important Pittsburgh’s commitment is. It’s the first post-industrial American city to sign on for such a commitment. Considering the amount of pollution inherent in steel production, it’s a bold move not just for the future of the city but for the future of the world.

And while the Sierra Club was the force behind the Ready for 100 plan, other non-profits are stepping up to bat to help Pittsburgh ensure a smooth transition. Local group Sustainable Pittsburgh has signed on to work closely with the Pittsburgh government in pursuit of those goals, and they’ve partnered with the Power of 32 and CEOs for Sustainability on a more focused model for change in the energy sector. Renewable Energy for the Power of 32 will leverage the influence of major energy users in the region like hospitals, businesses, and schools to speed up the process of adopting renewables. The logic is that the sectors that use the most change can do more good to change the conversation and the economics of the situation than well-intentioned but smaller grassroots movements could. Also assisting with Pittsburgh’s transition is a renewable energy advisory firm known as CustomerFirst Renewables. Based out of Washington DC, they’ve worked hard to negotiate renewable energy deals throughout the United States.

There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh has a tall hill to climb, but they’re fortunate to have partners in the effort. With powerful business interests and driven NGOs united in the push towards energy independence, Pittsburgh may be building a blueprint for other cities to follow.