Home Detective of Minnesota Home Inspection Services

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Are You Sure You Own Your Fence?

As Robert Frost (somewhat facetiously) said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While many people have much better relationships with their neighbors than the saying implies, there is something to be said for a good fence on your property. Not only can fences add some visual appeal to the property, but they can also be functional. Fences are often a godsend if you own animals and don’t want to keep them chained up outside, and a fence around your backyard can afford you some privacy with your family or friends as well.Sometimes, though, fences need to be updated, removed or replaced. At these times, homeowners have found themselves in conflict with their good neighbors over the question of who actually owns the fence between their properties. While this might seem like an odd question, if the fence was already there when you moved in, are you completely sure that it belongs to you? Just whose side of the property line does it really fall on?

Figuring Out Ownership

Before you start tearing down an existing fence, it’s important to figure out if you actually have legal ownership of the fence itself. Friendly neighbors can become bitter enemies pretty quickly if you start tearing down a fence that belongs to the people living next door. You can also cause some hurt feelings if you start taking the fence down and accidentally tear up gardens or other plants that grow next to or on the fence. This is why it’s essential to determine ownership before you make any move on the fence. Not clearing things beforehand can not only cause hurt feelings and ruin a neighborly relationship, but in some cases a neighbor might even get the police or lawyers involved.

A Neighborly Conversation

One of the first things that you should do if there’s any question about the ownership of the fence is go over and have a chat with your neighbor. Explain that you want to replace the fence, provide your reasoning on why the fence has to go, and ask if they know whose property the fence falls on. If the fence is on your property, the neighbor should tell you; if it’s on theirs, then you can open up a larger conversation about replacing it. This also gives you an opportunity to talk about any plants or other features that might be disturbed during the process and make accommodations for pets or other animals that gaps in the fence might put at risk. Be sure to approach the topic casually and with a friendly tone; if you come across as too aggressive or seem defensive about the question then it can cause the conversation to head south pretty quickly.

Checking That Property Line

Unless your conversation with your neighbor sorts things out neatly, it’s a good idea to get a survey done to settle the matter of where the fence lies. A surveyor will ensure that the property line is clearly marked so you can see exactly where the fence lies on the property line. In some cases, it will clear the matter up readily, since the fence will obviously fall on one property or the other. In other cases, you might find that the fence actually straddles the line or moves from one property to the other. In this case you may need to discuss the issue more with your neighbor or consult the property deed or other official description of the property to see whether the fence is mentioned. Regardless, knowing where the property line falls gives you a lot of leverage in solving the issue.

Solving Your Fencing Woes

Whether you’re in need of a surveyor to help you figure out ownership or a contractor to replace the fence, HomeKeepr is here to help. With a free HomeKeepr account you can connect with professionals in your area that will assist you in getting your fencing issues cleared up in no time. Sign up for a free account today so you can get started on your fencing project tomorrow.
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I Love a Parade! High Traffic Flooring Options

A nice deep pile carpet can look great in your home, but if you have a lot of foot traffic then it’s just asking for trouble. Not only will you have to work harder to keep it clean, but you’ll also have to replace it sooner than you’d like because all those feet and shoes will leave their mark over time. If you want nice-looking floors without worrying about your own personal parade wearing them down before their time, you need to find a flooring option that’s better suited for high-traffic areas.

Laminate Flooring

An increasingly popular option in homes, laminate flooring uses laminated wood slats with images applied to them to create the look of a premium flooring option without the premium price. Laminate is available in a wide range of sizes and types; choose thicker 12mm or 15mm laminates to help ensure that they won’t wear down due to excessive foot traffic. If you want something a bit different than standard laminates, some companies are also now making vinyl flooring that functions similarly to laminate floors but with the water resistance and other benefits of using vinyl.

Natural Stone

If you really want something that can stand up against some foot traffic, consider going with natural stone. These stone tiles add a touch of beauty and class while giving you the wear protection that only stone can provide. Depending on the option you choose, this may run a bit more expensive than other options, but there is very little out there that can match the look of stone in the end.

Concrete Flooring

Though this may sound unappealing when you first think of it, there’s a lot that can be done with concrete flooring. You can add color, stains, etchings, stamps and even embedded features such as stones or tiles to really bring the floor to life. Best of all, you already know that concrete can stand up to a lot of traffic and use without showing any wear, so you won’t have to worry about your floors showing their age for quite some time.

Hardwood

Another option, which can be a bit pricey depending on the wood you go with, is hardwood. There is very little that can beat a hardwood floor when it comes to beauty and wear resistance. You have several woods to choose from, each giving the floor its own touch of color and personality. The maintenance of hardwood is a little higher than some other options if you want to keep it looking its best, but the little bit of extra time you spend keeping up your floor is more than worth it.

Ceramic Tile Flooring

There are a lot of benefits to using ceramic tile in your high-traffic areas. Tile is versatile, comes in a wide range of colors and styles, creates a classic look, and is relatively easy to repair and replace if individual tiles get broken. Don’t worry that the look of ceramic tile is dated, either; while you might think that tile will give you the generic “tile floor” look of decades past, modern ceramic tile is truly a sight to behold.

Traffic-Resistant Carpet

Yes, carpet isn’t always the best flooring option for high-traffic areas. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t carpeting options available for rooms that see a lot of use, however. Not only are there low-pile carpets and other options designed with higher-traffic use in mind, but you can also get carpet tiles and other carpet options that are both easy to maintain and easy to repair if parts of them start showing a bit too much wear.

Finding the Right Flooring Option

Obviously, there are a few options available to keep your floors looking nice despite the amount of traffic they see. If you aren’t sure which is the best option for your specific situation, check out HomeKeepr to match up with a professional installer who can help. Not only will you find out which flooring options are best for different situations, but you’ll also get a great deal on having your new floor installed. Sign up for free today to get started.
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The Post-Inspection Negotiation Two-Step: What You Can Expect

Inspections are an important part of the home-selling process. The home inspector will locate any potential problems with the property, making sure that all involved know what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. What happens then, though? Whose responsibility is it to fix the issues that the home inspector discovered? As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”

Gauging Severity

One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.

Loan Program Requirements

Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.

Negotiating Repairs

In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)

Market Strength

The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.

Need Some Help?

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
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Care and Feeding of Your Home’s Roof

While the roof is one of the most important parts of your home, it’s also one of the most neglected. The average homeowner gives little thought to the condition or maintenance needs of their roof until it starts to leak, at which point it’s usually too late. With a little bit of care and planning, you can add years to the life of your roof. Even better, you can also improve both the look and overall condition of the rest of your home in the process.

Roof Safety First

Before you start any plans to take care of your roof, be sure that you know how to safely access the roof and work on it. Ensure that you have a ladder in good condition that you can secure in place, with a spotter there to keep an eye on you and hold the ladder stable. If possible, connect a rope or safety harness to a solid surface on the roof in case of accidental slips or falls. Wear slip-resistant shoes or work boots and walk carefully with each step to test for weak spots before putting your whole weight down. A fall from a roof can be very dangerous, so don’t skimp on the safety procedures when you’re leaving the ground.

Check It Out Annually

Don’t wait for there to be problems with your roof before you decide to do anything about it. At a bare minimum, you should inspect your roof once a year, ideally in the fall, before freezing temperatures set in. This lets you take care of any problems before ice, snow and other winter issues can make them worse. While this works as a minimum amount of attention, your roof will maintain its good condition longer if you also check it in the spring or early summer as well.

Clean the Debris

There is more on your roof than just a frisbee. The limbs, dirt and other debris can take a toll on your roof material over time. Wash the debris off your roof or climb up and remove it with a broom, being sure to follow good safety habits if you decide to go up yourself. If you’re unable to remove some of the debris safely, leave it and call a professional.

Look for Overhanging Branches

Trees near your home can provide good shade during the summer, but as winter sets in they can become a hazard. Limbs and branches that hang over your roof can not only drop seeds, leaves and pollen that can make a mess, but as temperatures drop and everything starts icing over those same limbs can gain a lot of weight. Trimming back the limbs or other hazards can go a long way toward preventing damage to your roof over the course of the winter.

Keep Your Gutters Clean

Most people clean their gutters to keep the water from falling over the side, but there are other reasons to keep them clean. If your gutters are clogged, all of that organic material holds moisture and keeps it right next to the edge of your roof. Over time, this can cause the wood in the roof edge to soften and rot. This can, in turn, lead to your gutters pulling free and possibly even part of your roof collapsing.

Look for Signs of Damage

Even quick visual inspections throughout the year can make a big difference in keeping your roof healthy. Areas that seem damp even when everything else looks dry, shingles or flashing that is visibly damaged or pulled up, mold growth on certain spots, damp spots in the attic and other signs of distress are all good ways of telling that there’s some problem with your roof that needs to be handled.

Calling in a Roofer

Even if you’re diligent when it comes to keeping your roof clean and looking for signs of damage, you may reach a point where you’ll need to bring in a roofer for repairs or a full roof replacement. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry; HomeKeepr is here to help! Sign up for a free account today and we can help you locate the roofer that’s the best match for your home and your budget.
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18 cheap and easy D-I-Y home improvement projects

Teresa Mears
You bought a new home, and the list of projects that need to be done is larger than your bank account. Or, the home you bought years ago is looking a little dated, and you don’t have the money to hire someone to give it that much-needed face-lift. Many easy do-it-yourself projects that will greatly improve the look of your home can be completed by an amateur in only a weekend. Not sure how to do something? You can find detailed instructions online for nearly any project and probably a video showing step-by-step how it’s done.

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But, what looks like a simple project can often escalate into a more complicated one if things go wrong – and even professionals often find unpleasant surprises when they get into a job.
Start with simple projects and know your skill level. Many projects that appear easy at first glance, such as changing the towel bars in a bathroom, get more complicated if a piece of plaster gets ripped off the wall when the old towel bar is removed. Plumbing in particular often is harder than it looks.
Before getting your hands dirty, you should have a basic set of tools: hammer, tape measure, X-ACTO knife, utility knife, adjustable crescent wrench, joint and screwdrivers, both flat-head and Phillips. An electric screwdriver, for example, makes an enormous difference if you’re assembling furniture from Ikea or elsewhere. For projects that require expensive tools you’ll only need once, consider borrowing or renting what you need. Do the math on each tool. Are you going to use it once or once a year? If so, buying secondhand could be a good idea.

A number of decorating projects don’t even require you to pick up a hammer or screwdriver. You can freshen a bedroom with new bedding and a bathroom with new towels, rug and accessories. Adding lamps, changing lamp shades and experimenting with different kinds and wattage of light bulbs will also significantly change the look of a room. Hanging artwork and adding or changing window treatments makes a big difference, although you may have to use a hammer or other tools to make this happen.

One project that doesn’t require tools but can really have a big impact is decluttering and organizing. Projects that make better use of existing space are usually a good use of your time.

Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report tells you which home improvements deliver the best payoff when it comes to resale value. But before you think about the next owner, what about enjoying life in the home you have now? The good news is there are lots of small, less expensive projects that can help you get the most enjoyment value out of your home.
Homeowners often make two major mistakes when they redecorate, and one is remodeling for resale, rather than for themselves, says Spike Carlsen, a contributing editor at The Family Handyman magazine, which has lots of do-it-yourself projects on its website. And when homeowners do remodel, Carlsen says, “they remodel for guests. It’s great when they have 10 people in the house, but it’s not great for how they live.” Ideas are easy to track down, as decorating and remodeling projects are everywhere. The Internet has become practically a catalog of DIY remodeling and decorating ideas. Some of the more popular sites are PinterestHouzz and HGTV, plus décor blogs and sites abound. If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions, you can probably find a video on YouTube or elsewhere. Just type your project into a search engine, and you have everything you need. Houzz allows you to create vision boards for each room in your home and collect photos of rooms or products you like.

You may also find some useful apps, such as one that turns an iPhone into an instant level. You can also find apps that help you design or lay out a room.

Here are 18 cheap, easy do-it-yourself projects that will boost your home’s looks and value:

Paint. You can paint your entire house or you can paint just the trim, interior or exterior. Or, paint an accent wall inside. Can’t afford new kitchen cabinets? Paint the old ones. The key to painting is in the preparation work, including taping around windows and cutting in around the ceiling. Keep that in mind when budgeting the time a project will take. It’s important to use the right paint. If you put latex paint over oil paint, for example, it won’t stay long. Good brushes also make a big difference. Do some research on the proper type of brush before buying a new one – good brushes are expensive, so you want to choose wisely.

Change your kitchen or bathroom hardware. This is one of the easiest projects you can do to freshen your kitchen or bath. Before you start, make sure the new hardware will fit the existing holes, or the project will expand to include filling old holes and drilling new ones. To ensure the new pieces will be a snug fit, measure the distance between holes for pulls and bring an old knob to the home improvement store for comparison. Before you buy hardware at a store, check online. You may find a significantly better price.
Reorganize a closet. You can buy a closet-organizing system at a home improvement store and install it, or you can create your own system with shelving you buy or already have.

Boost your curb appeal. Paint your front door or go all the way and paint all the trim and the garage door as well. Add fresh house numbers and a new mailbox. If you want still more curb appeal, plant new flowers and shrubs. A fresh new doormat can go a long way, too.

Turn a closet into a de facto mudroom. Many homes come with hall closets, where homeowners hang coats. That doesn’t take care of the backpacks, shoes, sporting equipment and other items your family brings home and dumps at the entrance. Consider removing the closet doors and adding hooks and shelves to make a space that better suits your family’s needs.

Install updated lighting fixtures. Changing one chandelier for another of the same size is surprisingly easy, though some light fixture changes are best left to professionals. An even easier project: Replace all your outlet and switch covers with clean new ones.

Build a stone or brick path outside. In many cases, all you need are the stones and some sand. Look for stones on Craigslist to cut the cost of the materials.

Replace your shower head. You can quickly give a mundane bath a spa-like look with a rain shower head. Plus, you’ll cut your water usage with a more efficient model. You’ll need plumber’s tape to wrap the threads before you install the new head.

Add pullouts, shelves and other organizing tools inside your kitchen cabinets. Adding pullout drawers requires some skill and tools, but inserting wire shelves or a lazy Susan for spices takes no skill and significantly increases your storage capacity.
Wheel out the pressure washer. Power wash the exterior of your house, your driveway and walkways to remove mud, dirt, mold and other grimy buildup. You can rent a pressure washer at a hardware store.

Do small kitchen updates. Many steps short of a full kitchen renovation can still make a big difference. Consider painting old cabinets or adding new doors. Use the right brush for a smooth, finished look. You can also change or update your countertop.

Install new plumbing fixtures. New faucets can significantly modernize a kitchen or bath.

Refresh your bathroom. A new shower curtain, towels and rugs instantly freshen a bathroom. You can also take other steps short of a gut remodel, such as changing the vanity or refacing the bathtub.

Redo your entryway. “The easiest thing you can do that immediately changes the way you see your house is the front door,” Adler says. If you can’t replace your front door, you can paint it.
Improve your outdoor space. Options include adding a patio or deck or sprucing up the one you already have. Adding low-voltage lighting is another easy project, plus you can add landscaping. Change your window coverings, throw pillows and other accent pieces. These days, less is more when it comes to window coverings. If your larger furniture pieces are neutral colors, you can add splashes of a new color with pillows and other accents. Wallpaper an accent wall or inside a bookcase. You can also paint the accent wall. Get rid of excess furniture and clutter. We often think of projects that add storage space, and there are many creative ways to do that. But first take a hard look at what you’re planning to store and see if you really need it. Removing half the furniture from a room and clearing off surfaces can give the room a new, clean look at no cost.

For more home improvement articles:

Avoid DIY disasters Why your home renovation won’t look like the TV shows Home improvements that save on your heating bill Plan for needed home repairs How to pay for your home improvements

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49 Life Hacks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

These life hacks will make your daily to-dos (plus a few random projects) so much easier!

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HH handy hints spaghetti noodle lighter candleFAMILY HANDYMAN

Pasta Lighter

We’re sure you’re stocking up on sweet smelling candles to make your home extra cozy for the colder months. But, if your candles are burning too low to reach the wick, there’s no reason to go without your favorite scent. Instead of burning your fingers, light a piece of uncooked spaghetti. It’ll reach into those deep candles and burn long enough to light the candles on grandpa’s birthday cake!  
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HH lemon juice remove highlighterFAMILY HANDYMAN

Remove Highlighter Stains

Ever wish you could remove highlighter marks from a book? Lemon juice fades highlighter enough to make it virtually undetectable. Cut a lemon in half and get some juice on a cotton swab. Run the swab over the highlighted text and watch the color fade. Lemon juice from a container also seems to do the trick. Though not quite as well on the pieces we tested, and the older the mark, the more stubborn it is to remove.
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HH Puppy PVC slow feeder dogFAMILY HANDYMAN

Puppy Slow Feeder

My puppy was eating his food too fast, resulting in him vomiting it back up. Instead of buying a slow-feed bowl, I drilled holes into a 12 in. length of 2 in. PVC pipe and capped the ends. I fill the tube with puppy food, and he has to roll it around to get the food to fall out of the holes. My puppy gets all the food he needs without the mess that comes from eating too fast. Be sure the holes are large enough for the food to come out! – Charlie May 4 / 49

HH Handy Hint color coded key nail polishFAMILY HANDYMAN

Identify Your Keys at a Glance

“It seems the older I get, the more keys I carry around. Between the car, house, shed and garage, I have a whole pocket full of keys. To make it easier to quickly find my most used keys, I paint both sides of the key head with brightly colored nail polish. I use a different color for each key. The nail polish is extremely durable and you’ll be surprised how much longer it lasts than spray paint.” —Joseph Grayson Check out these other.
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HH Pool noodle hose extenderFAMILY HANDYMAN

Pool Noodle Water Hose

If you need to fill up a bucket that won’t fit under your sink’s faucet, bust out a pool noodle. Set the bucket on the floor, slip the pool noodle over the faucet and run it down to the bucket.
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HH silica packets gardening seeds freshFAMILY HANDYMAN

Keep Seeds Fresh

If you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these 10 seriously useful gardening tips every beginner needs to know. 7 / 49

HH Handy Hint fog free mirror car waxFAMILY HANDYMAN

Fog-Free Mirrors

Prevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower with car wax. Apply a small amount of car wax to the mirror, let it dry, then buff with a soft, dry cloth.
 
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HH disinfect legos in dishwasherFAMILY HANDYMAN

Easy Way to Disinfect Legos

Children’s toys are a breeding ground for germs. A dishwasher makes quick work of disinfecting toys that are washable, like Legos. To quickly clean Legos:
  1. Drop the Legos in a laundry bag to keep them contained.
  2. Run your dishwasher as usual.
  3. But, remove the Legos before the drying cycle, letting them air dry completely on a towel.
This method also works well for other treasures like seashells, dish brushes, rags and sponges.  
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easy sticker removal HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Renew Your Furniture in Minutes

My son plastered all of the furniture in his room with stickers from skate shops, arenas and gumball machines. Once he moved out, I wanted to use his furniture in the new guest room, without the stickers. I peeled off all the stickers using a putty knife in combination with hair dryer, to soften the adhesive. Some are harder to remove than others, but I had them all off in a couple hours. – Steve Winter  
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HH painters tape shelf hanging templateFAMILY HANDYMAN

Tape Template

Take the guesswork out of hanging picture frames, shelves and other items with “keyhole” hangers. To begin:
  1. Stick a piece of masking tape over the keyholes, and then trace over the keyholes with a pencil, making a template.
  2. Making sure it’s level, stick the template on the wall where you want the shelf.
  3. Drill your anchor holes or screws into the template and remove it.
 
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HH Handy hint ice cubes wrinkle remover dryerFAMILY HANDYMAN

Get Wrinkles Out of Your Laundry with Zero Effort

Ditch the time-consuming iron or handheld steamer to get wrinkles out of a shirt or slacks. Throw a few ice cubes or a wet washcloth in the dryer with your wrinkled clothes. As the ice melts and the water turns to steam, it will remove the wrinkles. This trick isn’t as effective with heavier clothing but is a miracle for lighter fabrics. The best part is that you don’t have to set the dryer for longer than 10 minutes for it to work.
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plant in a pot landscaping design seasonal mums HH Handy HintFAMILY HANDYMAN

Plant-in-a-Pot Landscaping Design

Ever wish you could reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it. You’ll need a bunch of pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This method is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.  
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HH lint log fire starter

Dryer Lint Fire Starter

To properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid!
 
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HH zip-tie phone stand propped up

Zip-Tie Phone Stand

When referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (1 on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.  

lip balm cash stash

Secret Cash Stash

“Sometimes I don’t want to carry my wallet around. At the beach, for example, when I have to leave my belongings unattended while I go for a swim. But I still need cash on hand for food, drinks, etc. So I turned an empty tube of lip balm into a secret cash stash. You could do the same with an empty stick of sunscreen, too. A long nail works great for digging out any remaining bits of lip balm, and a cotton swab wipes away any waxy residue. Not only is the tube small enough to fit in my pocket, but it’ll also fool any potential thieves. I mean, who would steal someone’s used lip balm?” — Jenny Stanley
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HH DIY hose drip watererFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Drip Waterer

Here’s an easy way to turn any hose into a drip-watering hose. Drill 1/8 in. holes every 2 in. and screw a cap the end. Weave the hose around your plants and turn on the spigot. You’ll have to do some testing to figure out the right setting. To make watering even easier, I added a programmable faucet timer to the hose. — Matt Boley  
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FH19MAY_594_08_030-1200 plywood sheet carrier HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

The Ultimate Extra Hand

Carrying a sheet of plywood by yourself is awkward and hard on your back. The best method I’ve found is to make a loop from an 18-ft. length of rope and wrap it around two corners. Now I can use the rope as a handle. – Ken Porter Now that you can carry plywood across your shop,
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double your resealable bags HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

How to Double Your Resealable Bags

This might be the coolest way to turn sandwich-size bags into snack-size bags! Here’s how to do it: Heat up an old butter knife with a lighter and slice the bag in half. The hot knife cauterizes the edges of the two new bags. The cauterized edges are as strong as the factory sealed edges! – Julia Trenton  
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Handy Hint HH flamingo blow up pool toy shop vac nozzleFAMILY HANDYMAN

No Air Pump? No Problem! Use a Shop Vacuum

If you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off of a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.  
 
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Picture Frame Bumpers 2 HH

Instant Picture Frame Bumpers

Stop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The hot glue not only prevents movement, but it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.
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Painted Carpet HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Clean Up Paint in Carpet

I used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in color to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s color to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky  
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HH message board picture frameFAMILY HANDYMAN

Picture Frame Message Board

I’m all for dry-erase message boards, but they’re usually pretty unattractive. So I make message boards using nice picture frames. To make these message boards, grab a picture frame and some paper. Cut the paper to fit the frame and set it in behind the glass. The glass makes an excellent dry erase surface! — Jessie Dawson  
13 / 49

HH easy mulch spreading handy hint bucketsFAMILY HANDYMAN

Easy Mulch Spreading

Getting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out. — Eric Swartz
24 / 49

HH carpet padding to make plush rugFAMILY HANDYMAN

Make Any Rug Extra Comfortable

Want to make any rug feel extra plush and luxurious? Add a layer of carpet padding underneath your rug—it’s thicker and cheaper than a typical rug pad. The next time you wash that pile of dishes in the sink, your feet will thank you.  
25 / 49

Lampshade Lint RollerFAMILY HANDYMAN

Lampshade Lint Roller

Fabric lampshades are magnets for dust and pet hair. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine, so what do you do? I’ve found that a lint roller works really well. Be careful though, as lampshades are fragile and can even become brittle. A torn lampshade is worse than a dirty one.
   
26 / 49

adding pvc to table legs to make a taller table HH

Taller Table Hack

I have a typical 6-ft. folding table that I use to layout certain projects. But the height of the table is meant for someone sitting in a chair. Constantly bending over when using the table was starting to hurt my back, so I came up with a solution. I used a couple of 2-ft. lengths of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe found at my local home center, and cut four 11-in. stilts for my table. I slipped the pipes onto the legs and it raised the table about 6 in., bringing my work surface to a more comfortable height! The bend in the table legs at about 5 in. from the ground holds the pipes securely in place, so my table is still as sturdy as ever. The stilts can be removed if I ever need to lower the height of the table to use it while sitting in a chair. — Gary Inlow
27 / 49

HH ice remove gum stuck in carpetFAMILY HANDYMAN

Remove Gum from Carpet

When gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly.
  1. Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
  2. When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.
 
28 / 49

Wood plank HH Handy Hint Lawn edgingFAMILY HANDYMAN

Simple Lawn Edging

To edge your lawn, garden, or flowerbed, lay down a 2×6. While holding the board with your foot, drive a flat spade along the board’s edge. Move the board as needed to create a clean, straight line.  
29 / 49

HH DIY wood filler sawdustFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Wood Filler

“To make a versatile wood filler for free, just grab a paper plate and combine Elmer’s or any other wood glue with sawdust. Like other wood fillers, you can stain or finish it, but the color will likely be a bit different than the surrounding wood. But, it’s sandable, paintable and long-lasting. I haven’t bought any wood filler in over 50 years.”  — Dan Gola  
30 / 49

Quick Cold Drinks 2 HH

Quick Cold Drinks

Does wrapping a wet paper towel around a warm canned or bottled beverage and putting it in the freezer cool it faster than if there were no paper towel around it? Some folks theorize that the can is analogous to your body, and the wet paper towel is analogous to sweat. Since it’s well known that evaporation of sweat pulls heat away from your body, causing a cooling effect, the same should happen with a canned beverage in the freezer, right? There are lots of “expert” opinions about this online supporting both sides of the argument. I’ve had many opportunities to experiment, and to me, it seems to make a difference. Try it out for yourself! — Edward Kral.
31 / 49

HH Handy Hint Sponges stay plants stay hydratedFAMILY HANDYMAN

Healthy Plant Hydration

Water settling at the bottom of pots can lead to root rot. To combat this problem, cut up old sponges and put them in the bottom of the pot. The sponges retain moisture and create necessary air space. They also help prevent water from flushing out the bottom. The sponge acts as a water reserve and keeps soil moist longer.  
32 / 49

HH clean sneakers with a toothbrush and toothpaste whiteFAMILY HANDYMAN

Your Shoes Will Look New

All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.
33 / 49

tractor rope HH

Lawn Mower Grass Chute Saver

To avoid a lot of string trimmer work, I like to mow as close as possible to trees and buildings. But the grass chute on my riding mower prevents it. So I drilled a hole in the chute and tied a rope from the chute to a handle on the side of the tractor. Now I can lift up the chute without missing a beat, and cut way down on string trimmer work. — Travis Larson
34 / 49

HH durable sandpaper duct tape

How to Make Durable Sandpaper

“I do a lot of finish-sanding freehand, without a sandpaper block, so I can smooth edges and get into nooks and crannies. But the finer grits are usually bonded to thinner paper and, at least for me, the paper is too thin and ends up tearing long before the grit wears out. So I apply duct tape to the back of the sandpaper. The sandpaper is still flexible enough to sand a tight radius and it’s far more durable. You can use this super-strong sandpaper like a shoeshine rag.” — Chuck Merchant
35 / 49

HH phone charger heat shrink tubing pen spring hack

Use This Simple Hack to Save Your Phone Charger

To make your otherwise fragile phone charger last for more than a couple of weeks, try out this simple hack! Start by removing the spring from a pen. Next, stretch one end of the spring out a bit so it can fit around the charger cable. You might need to use pliers for this. Now, wind the spring around the cable until it is completely on the charger cable. Next, take appropriately sized heat shrink tubing and slip it over the phone charger and spring. Use a lighter to warm the heat shrink tubing until it conforms around the charger and spring. This simple hack will keep the cord from breaking any further or from even breaking in the first place!
36 / 49

HH blue painters tape dustpan broken glass

Effectively and Safely Sweep Up Glass

Everyone who has ever swept the floor with a standard broom and dustpan knows about that annoying line of dust. It’s the line that just won’t disappear no matter how many times you try and sweep it up. To get rid of this annoying line, simply tape the front of the dustpan to the floor with blue painters tape, so no residue will be left on the floor. It will seal and cover the gap between the floor and your pan. This handy hint also works great for sweeping up more menacing items like glass. The dustpan and tape combo will ensure that all of those little glass shards will be in the pan and not on the floor.  
37 / 49

HH Ice Pack Frozen Sponge

Make Your Own Ice Pack

Ice packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the environment as well. First, purchase an inexpensive pack of sponges or just find some old ones around the house. Grab a big bowl of water and let the sponges completely soak up as much water as they possibly can. After soaking the sponges, put each sponge in a small sandwich bag with a zip close. These bags serve two purposes. First, as the ice melts, the bag contains the water so it doesn’t make a mess in your lunch bag. Second, keeping the water contained allows the melted sponge to reabsorb the water so it is ready to refreeze for the next day. Now, freeze the wet and bagged sponges overnight. In the morning, all you need to do is toss the ice pack into your lunch container.  
 
38 / 49

HH DIY car mat from carpet scrapsFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Car Mats

One simple way to keep your car clean is to cut scraps of old carpet to fit on the floor as mats.  We found our carpet scraps for less than $2 at Home Depot. And when the DIY carpet scraps inevitably get all dirty with mushy winter snow or summer sand, you could either give them a wash or toss them out and make more. A word of caution, do not put these DIY car mats on the driver’s side of the car unless grippers are attached on the bottom side to ensure that the mat does not slip forward while driving.
39 / 49

ROUND_8 HH Wood dent iron steam wet cloth

Get Dents Out of Wood

Dents in wood surfaces can be annoying. But fret not, they can be fixed! Simply soak a washcloth in water and ring it out a bit so it’s not sopping wet. Put the damp washcloth on the affected area. The water will wick through the wood, and that’s fine. Now, with your iron on its highest setting, place it on the damp washcloth over the affected area, and make small movements back and forth and in circles. Press down firmly and continue until your washcloth is dry. It won’t take long to evaporate. At this point, the wood fibers are absorbing the water and should expand back to where they were originally. Continue this process and repeat by adding more water until the dents rise up to be flush with the rest of the material.  
40 / 49

HH Staple Remover key ring

Staple Remover Hack

A staple remover has perfectly sized thin teeth that make them perfect to easily slide between the rings of a key ring. When you clamp them down, it spreads the key rings apart and makes it easy to slide a new key on. This saves you the hassle of trying to pry open the key ring with your nails.
41 / 49

water bottle cap to support tension rod HH

Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps

“My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So, I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps. I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, and then I mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod, so it doesn’t fall down anymore.” — Rodney Sheets
42 / 49

coating snow shovel with car wax HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car Wax

Shoveling snow can be frustrating enough, but when heavy snow sticks or freezes in clumps on the shovel, it can make the job even more difficult! You can avoid this issue by first coating your shovel with car wax before heading out to clear your driveway and walking paths. This tip works best with metal shovels: Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Generally, car wax is applied in a thin layer using a damp cloth, allowed to dry, and then buffed off with a dry cloth. This leaves the shovel clean and lubricated, so the snow and ice won’t stick!
43 / 49

HH Handy Hint Vacuum cleaner nylons find lost itemsFAMILY HANDYMAN

Find Your Lost Items

Everyone knows how annoying it is when you can’t seem to find a dropped pill or the back of an earring. So how do you find these items quickly and easily? Use your vacuum. Here’s the trick; before you turn the vacuum on, cut off the end of a nylon and secure it on the end of your vacuum hose with a rubber band.
44 / 49

dry erase board permanent marker handy hint

Erase Permanent Marker on a Dry Erase Board

Who hasn’t accidentally written on a white board with a permanent marker? Luckily, it’s easier to remove than you think. Simply draw over your permanent marker artwork with a dry erase marker, and then wipe the marks away with an eraser or dry cloth. Your dry erase board will be good as new!
45 / 49

penny to fix wobbly furniture HH

Fix Wobbly Furniture with a Penny

Need to shim a wobbly bench or table, but don’t have time to run to the home center for furniture feet? No worries, just reach for your pocket change! You can use a coin to shim wobbly furniture in a pinch. Use hot glue to attach the coin to the problem area, adding additional coins as needed. Coins work well as a temporary fix because they come in a variety of thicknesses and cost less than a dollar!
46 / 49

writing notes on washing machine HH

Write Notes on the Washer

When you put a load of clothes into your washing machine, use a dry-erase marker to note on the lid which items should not go into the dryer. That way, whoever switches the load from the washing machine to the dryer will know which items to leave out for line drying. The enamel finish on most washing machine lids is similar to a whiteboard, and dry-erase markers can be removed easily with a dry paper towel.
47 / 49

magnetized drill HH

Magnetized Drill Hack

I like to keep screws very close at hand when I’m working on a project. How close? I stick them right to my drill. Some drills are equipped with a magnetized portion for this purpose, but if yours isn’t, here’s an easy fix. Hot glue a rare earth magnet to the back of your drill and slap a few screws on it. For small tasks, I don’t even need a tool belt. – Lucas Kuck
48 / 49

HH sharpie sharpies rubbing alcohol

Bring Dead Sharpies Back to Life

When it comes to workshop problems, dried-out Sharpies aren’t major. But they are annoying when you can’t find another one to mark your measurements or project notes. To bring your permanent marker back to life, simply remove the back from the maker. This will be different for each brand of permanent marker, for Sharpies simply remove the back nib. Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes the marker will be practically good as new!
49 / 49

HH sharpening scissor blades on coffee mug

Use a Ceramic Mug as a Sharpening Stone

The bottom of most ceramic coffee mugs have a flat, unglazed ring that is the perfect surface for giving that dull knife or blade a quick sharpening. And if you find yourself in need of sharpening a utility knife, pocket blade or scissors and don’t have access to a sharpening stone, you can simply flip over a ceramic coffee mug and use the outer edge of the bottom, the non-glazed part, as an emergency sharpening stone. Just run the blade across the bottom of the mug at a 45-degree angle, working from the one end of the blade to the tip. Next, slide the blade downward in one direction, keeping your fingers out of the way as you work. This isn’t a perfect solution for continually sharpening your blades, but if you need to quickly sharpen and clean up the edge of a blade this method will do in a pinch. We do recommend eventually investing in a blade sharpening kit.
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Spruce Up Your House for Holiday Hosting

The holiday season is one of the most-traveled periods of the entire year. People drive and fly across the country or around the world to visit friends and loved ones. It’s wonderful to have those you care about coming to visit, but it can also be very stressful if your home is in disarray. Even though you tell yourselves that people won’t really care about what your home looks like, there’s always that fear that they’ll judge you if your house isn’t ready for guests.You don’t have to worry, though. There are a number of ways that you can make your home more festive in preparation for holiday visitors. Here are just a few suggestions to help get you started.

Rearrange the Furniture

Even something as simple as rearranging some of the furniture can have a big impact on the look of your home when company arrives. Changing the positioning of couches, chairs and other large pieces can open rooms up and make them seem more inviting to your visitors. Best of all, you can easily focus the changes around a Christmas tree or other holiday centerpieces to really tie things together and create a unified holiday look. Once your guests leave, you can either move the furniture back to its usual spots or leave it where it is to keep the new look going throughout the year.

Clean Up the Outdoors

Another place that you can make a big impact is cleaning up around the outdoors. Rake and mulch leaves, clean up flower beds, trim back trees and bushes… do whatever needs to be done to get everything looking great before the temperatures drop too low. If possible, you may even want to clean the bricks or siding and clean out your gutters. While you’re up there, you may as well install some hangers for holiday light strings, too!

Update Your Accents

One seemingly small change that can make a big impression is to change the accent colors on your home by painting the doors and shutters. This option isn’t right for everyone since it’s a permanent change, but for those wanting to update the look of their home it can make a big difference. While the color you choose is dependent on the color of your home and your personal preference, going with red or green can add a splash of holiday flair that will still look great the rest of the year through.

Spruce Up the Floors

If your carpets are stained, worn or otherwise need a refresh, don’t just install a similar carpet in their place: Consider going for woodgrain vinyl slats or laminate wood flooring instead. These flooring options add the beauty of a natural wood floor without the frustration, standing up to stains and other issues while requiring significantly less work to maintain. Best of all, a change to a wood look near the holidays can enhance the charm of your home when your visitors finally arrive.

Change Your Decorating Style

Consider ditching the tired old holiday decorations that you put up every year and go with a bit of a different look this time around. If you usually go cartoony, consider something classier like white lights and pine accents. If your decorations are usually sparse, do something a bit more over the top this year. It doesn’t matter how you refresh your decorations, just give your visitors something to see that they haven’t seen before. While this is especially effective if combined with other updates to your home, you can still wow your guests just by subverting their expectations of your holiday décor.

Bring in the Pros

If you can’t come up with a solution you like, consider bringing in a decorator to help you find the holiday updates that work best for your house. HomeKeepr can help you find the perfect decorator to wow your guests when they arrive. Sign up for your free account today!
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Heating Sources Explained

There are a lot of different options available when it comes to heating your home. Some of them, you’re likely really familiar with, while others are newer options that you may not have heard of. Regardless, understanding how different heating options work is an important part of deciding how to best heat your home. Whether you’re building the home of your dreams or just remodeling your existing home, here’s some info on some of the heating options you might encounter.

Gas Heat

As the name implies, gas heat means that your system produces heat by burning a flammable gas (typically propane or natural gas). Depending on where you live, the gas either comes from a city-supplied utility line or a standalone tank that sits on your property. The heater functions by adjusting the gas passing through the heating chamber to make flames larger or smaller, controlling the amount of heat the flames release into the air that passes through the chamber. Propane heat may also come in other forms, such as gas fireplaces that serve a decorative purpose, as well as providing localized heat.

Forced Air

A forced air system is one that uses fans or other blowers to move air over a heating element and throughout the heating system’s ductwork. These are some of the more common heaters that you will encounter, as variations of forced air heating is used in most central heat and air systems and in many portable heaters.

Baseboard Radiators

There are a few different types of baseboard radiators that you might encounter. These heaters sit at or around floor level around the edges of a room, generating heat and allowing it to rise naturally throughout the room or house. Different materials are used in these heaters, with more modern varieties using pipes filled with heated oil to hold and radiate heat at a lower power cost than similar heating options like older, electric floor radiators.

Radiant Heat

An increasingly popular option for heating the home comes in the form of radiant heat flooring. A closed liquid heating system is embedded in concrete or other flooring material, heating the floor itself and allowing that heat to radiate upward naturally to provide gentle heat over a larger area without the need for high energy costs. There are a wide range of radiant heat options available, including everything from electric heating to systems that are heated from a wood stove outside of the home.

Solid Fuel Heaters

Also referred to as “pellet stoves” or “biomass heaters”, solid fuel heaters are stoves or other heating units that burn solid materials such as wood pellets or shavings instead of liquid or gas fuels. This is seen as something of a green option for homeowners who want to use wood and other materials that would otherwise be considered waste by the forestry industry. The fuel pellets or shavings are loaded into the heater and released into the burning chamber gradually, providing more control over the temperature and heat intensity than you would have with traditional wood-burning stoves.

CHP Systems

An emerging technology, “combined heat and power” or CHP heating systems are designed to be another environmentally-friendly heating option. These systems use a generator that produces power for the home or other buildings on the property, then reclaims heat energy released by the generator to heat the home. These systems are not yet available in all areas and may not be for everyone since they do provide more than just heat. For those planning for the future, however, keeping an eye on CHP systems may be a way to heat the home while simultaneously reducing dependence on external power.

Turn Up the Heat

If you aren’t sure what type of heating system is best for your needs, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for free and we can help you find a professional that will match you with the heating solution that best fits your home and budget.
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The Post-Inspection Negotiation Two-Step: What You Can Expect

As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”

Gauging Severity

One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.

Loan Program Requirements

Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.

Negotiating Repairs

In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)

Market Strength

The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.

Need Some Help?

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
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