Tips for Building Your Perfect Privacy Fence

If you have a yard but live in close proximity to your neighbors, a privacy fence could give your outdoor space the peace and seclusion you’re looking for. Any chain link fence would keep your pets safe and give them a place to roam free, but a privacy fence adds a level of sophistication. The right privacy fence could give your yard the backdrop for an outdoor sanctuary of your dreams.

Primary Materials

There are numerous options for your privacy fence, but it boils down a handful of options for your primary material. These are wood, vinyl, masonry, composite or vegetation. Each has their own pros and cons based on cost, maintenance and aesthetic appeal.

Wood

Wooden fences are a classic option for privacy fences. They’re generally affordable for most homeowners. The cost varies depending on the quality level of the wood you purchase, but good sealant and proper installation is key regardless of what wood you purchase. Because of the nature of wood, you can paint or stain the wood any shade you choose. For a uniform look and quicker installation, you could purchase wood panels so your fence is partially pre-assembled upon arrival. Or, you could buy your own wood to create your own personalized fence with some design flexibility.

The biggest drawback of a wooden fence is that it requires yearly maintenance. It will need to be re-stained or refinished with sealant that protects from UV rays and water damage. Otherwise, the wood could rot, warp or fall victim to fungus. If you’re buying the wood or panels from a hardware store, you should also sort through to ensure you’re buying the best of the bunch. Look for pieces that are already warped or misshapen and avoid picking them for your project.

One pro tip for the craftier of homeowners: use recycled wood! If you can find pallets, mismatched wood, and other materials at a cheap price, you could use your creativity to turn it into a unique masterpiece. With poor craftsmanship, it could turn into a mess. However, when these fences are done properly, they create an artsy, rustic space that is perfect for some homeowners’ styles. Pinterest has some great inspiration for creative privacy fences.

Vinyl

Vinyl fences are an alternative to the look of standard wood. The fences are usually white, gray or cream-colored, providing a neutral backdrop for your outdoor area. They’re resilient to termite damage, fungus and dry rot. Cleaning is a breeze because they can easily be sprayed off to remove dirt and grime. Installation is also reportedly very easy. The biggest disadvantage is the cost. The initial investment is higher than that of a wooden fence. The material can also become distorted with extreme temperatures or wind.

Vegetation

If you live in an area with the proper climate, a living vegetation fence could be a great option for privacy. A wall of columnar evergreens at the edge of your property adds life to the space while providing a visual barrier to passersby. Tall hedges are another great option. These fences are also usually unrestricted by local bylaws and building codes that limit the height of a fence on residential property. If the upkeep of natural vegetation is too time-consuming for your lifestyle, you might also consider artificial hedge paneling for your fencing needs.

Composite

Composite fences are visually similar to wood fences, but require less maintenance and hold up better over time. The only downside is that they are far more costly.

Bamboo

Bamboo is another great alternative because it is tough, grows quickly and can withstand most temperatures and treatments. For environmentally-friendly homeowners, these fences are a great option. If you frame the bamboo sections with black metal, it adds a sophistication to your yard that is hard to replicate with other materials.

Stone, Brick or Concrete

For homeowners who want a unique design with maximum privacy and security, they may consider a fence made of stone, brick or concrete. Concrete is the cheapest of the three options, but stone and brick fences look more natural in some landscapes. With a high enough fence, it is nearly impossible for intruders or unwanted animal guests to break into your private space. These fences are also extremely durable and require little maintenance.

Additional Considerations

Before you start your fencing project, be sure that you’re confident about your property line. If you build your fence on a neighbor’s property, it could result in a tedious legal battle and ultimately removal of your fence.

If you’re not confident in your ability to build a fence on your own, consult a local contractor or landscaper. They will be familiar with your area’s building codes and have the raw skills needed to get the job done right.

Carefully consider all your options before jumping into the project. With all the fence materials available, you can pick one or combine them to create a unique border for your space. Shop around for the best price and materials. If you’re choosing to outsource the job, consider the reputation of the workers you’re hiring.

A nice privacy fence is a big investment. In some cases, is better to save up for an end result you’ll be happy with instead of rushing for the quickest fix. If you need a barrier while saving for your dream fence, invest in a chain link fence for temporary use. They are cheap and easy to install in comparison to other fence types. They also sell slats for your chain link fence that would give you some additional privacy. This option isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the other options mentioned above, but it is a great choice for homeowners on a budget who want some privacy in their yard.

Best of luck with your new fence! If you have any additional tips, tell me in the comments or connect with me on social media.

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Jason Cohen (Pittsburgh) originally posted this content at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

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The Ugly Truth About Foreclosed Homes

For anyone who has ever been looking for a home within a tight budget, you may have had the opportunity to consider a home that went through the foreclosure process.

The length of a foreclosure process varies by state. In Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, a lender must use the judicial foreclosure process because that is Pennsylvania law. The judicial process in Pennsylvania reportedly takes 90 days.

Purchasing a foreclosed home isn’t always a bad decision. You can often find diamonds in the rough at a low price. If the home is in the pre-foreclosure stage, you could get it through a short sale. If a bank is motivated to sell the property quickly, that could be a good negotiation tool for you. It is also a plus that you won’t be responsible for any liens or back taxes from the previous owner since the home’s title is cleared.

Dangers of Purchasing Foreclosed Homes

Although foreclosed homes are sometimes great deals, there are some potential pitfalls that you should be cognizant of.

Occupants

When dealing with a foreclosure, the occupant is often still in the home throughout the foreclosure process. How would you feel if you were losing your home because you couldn’t afford the payments? Some people would take it with grace, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. There are many instances where the occupant damages the home out of spite and hurt feelings. For example, they may leave holes in the walls, destroy appliances, let their pets urinate and defecate on the floors, etc. If you ask a real estate agent, I’m sure they could tell you some horror stories.

Repairs

The bottom line is that you don’t know what condition the home will be left in. If the property is at auction, you won’t even get to see the interior until you’ve already paid in full. Even if you are able to see the property’s interior prior to the sale, you may not be able to request repairs before buying the home. What you see is what you get. If the property is in bad shape or not up to code in specific ways, it may limit the possibility of some loans, such as an FHA loan. Although this varies on a case-by-case basis.

Competition

With the recent surge in real estate investors who flip property for profit, you may find yourself competing with other potential buyers for the same property. This is especially true at an auction. Before going in, set a hard budget for yourself and don’t pay more than you would earn from the property in the end. To give yourself an edge, have the required funds available to pay a foreclosed property’s outstanding mortgage balance to the lender.

For all the information you’ll need about risks and potential benefits of purchasing a foreclosed home, consult a trusted local real estate agent.

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Jason Cohen (Pittsburgh) originally posted this content at JasonCohenPittsburgh.com.

4 Tips for Making Your Lease Protect You

As a landlord, you began investing in real estate to make money, but, if you’re not careful, you may end up paying out more in expenses than you’re making. The lease can be much more than a rental agreement. It should be used to help you protect yourself against mounting upkeep costs that should be the burden of your tenant.

Include a Guest Clause

The largest cause of property damage is people. The more people you have occupying a unit, the greater the wear and tear on the apartment. For this reason, it’s important to have a clause that designates just how many people can live in the unit. You can and should also add a clause limiting the number of guests that can stay overnight in the unit. As a part of that guest clause, include a clause that states that the tenant is responsible for any damage or other liabilities caused by guests of that tenant.

Put a Cap on Utilities

If you’re paying for the utilities, be sure to include a clause in the lease about the tenant’s privileges. The best way to handle this situation is to designate a number, such as $50 for gas, and state that the tenant is responsible for paying overages. If the tenant knows he’s responsible for paying the difference, he’ll be much more concerned with conserving resources.

Include Property Inspections

While most leases do have a “right to entry” clause, you might want to consider specifying routine inspections. This is the best way to protect yourself as the property owner. By making a routine inspection occasionally, you can ensure there are no serious damages to the property, unregistered tenants, or unapproved pets. This is your property and you have the right to ensure it’s being cared for in a proper way.

Specify Restrictions

This means going into detail in the lease on how the property is to be used. If you don’t want tenants using the fireplace, state that in the lease. Also point out that using utilities in a way other than intended is prohibited. This way, if their son throws a toy down the toilet and that creates a costly plumbing repair bill, the tenant will be held responsible for paying it. This is added protection against damages caused by the tenant.

If there’s anything that concerns you in renting out your property, you should make a point to mention that in the lease. This is your opportunity to let your tenants know what is and isn’t acceptable. By providing detailed clauses in your lease, you can ensure your property will be well tended and you’ll be spared the costs of paying for damages.

*Originally posed on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net

Jason Cohen Pittsburgh - Best Practices for Landlords

Best Practices for Landlords

No landlord wants to keep a flaky client. Every investment property owner counts on their tenants to pay their rent in full and on time – otherwise, they have no way of making a profit off of owning and renting out the building. A landlord’s choice of tenant matters; no property owner wants to risk bringing on a tenant that will trash place and skip out on rent. Likewise, they can’t afford to lose responsible and reliable tenants as a result of poor communication or subpar landlord-tenant relationships. In order to find and maintain responsible and reliable tenant, landlords must take stock of their own actions and strategies to establish a productive rapport with those living in their investment properties. In this piece, Jason Cohen Pittsburgh provides a few best practices for landlords who want to cultivate mutually-beneficial, long-term relationships with responsible tenants.

Creating the Lease

Standard lease forms are readily available and cover rent, security deposit fees and legal rights. From there, add pet restriction policies, late payment fees, maintenance responsibilities and expected behavior. A detailed lease explaining a landlord’s expectations and requirements reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings in the future.

Be Welcoming

New tenants are often new to the area. As such, landlords might consider creating a printed map that provides directions to frequently visited locations that may include grocery stores, medical clinics, pharmacies, restaurants and perhaps nearby attractions. Leave a welcome card in the residence to start the relationship on a positive note.

Friendly but Professional

Make a good first impression by dressing appropriately. By appearing clean and properly put together, you convey that you expect your tenants to maintain their residence. Follow the guidelines clearly established in the lease to prevent misunderstandings. Go over the lease with them before they move. You can always amend trivial matters along the way if you choose. If a disagreement should arise, it is important that the landlord always remain calm and professional.

Availability

In the event that a problem occurs, tenants must be able to contact the landlord. Supply one or more phone numbers and perhaps an email address. Emails also reduce the number of after hour calls while providing documentation of an issue. Consider tenants as customers. In order to keep customers, property owners must respond as quickly as possible when contacted. When a problem arises, set a time to visit and inspect the problem. Remedy the problem or have the repair completed as quickly as possible.

Respect Their Privacy

Tenants have the right to privacy. Some states require that landlords provide notice before entering the property. Landlords should also schedule visits to business hours or at a time that is convenient for the tenant.

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net