Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.
But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.
What Is a Warranty?
The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.
A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.
The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.
“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.
At least in the ideal case.
The Law Governing Warranties
Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.
The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.
The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.
Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.
Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to the design or construction of the building.
Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come to see it and repair it.
To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.
The One-Year Warranty
The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.
Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.
The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.
But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”
Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty
Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.
In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.
If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.
If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.
“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”
Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.
Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”
Going Beyond Warranties
Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”
More Ways to Protect Yourself
So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)
Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that is backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.
Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”
Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”
How Glass Design Can Help Reflect the Best of Your Home
Glass has been a key component of home design for style and function for thousands of years. The versatility of glass is such that nearly every single modern home constructed utilizes glass in some way, shape, or form. But there’s no need to settle for simply including glass window panes and calling it good. Whether it’s in the interior or exterior, accentuating your home with glass is a great way to invite light, show creativity, and convey a truly modern sense of style in your home. We picked a few of our favorite ways to utilize glass below:
Photo Credit: Trendir.com
- Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
- If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
- Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.
Creative Window Glass
Photo Credit: Freshome.com
- Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
- Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
- Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
- Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.
Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com
- A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
- Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
- Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.
Sea Glass/Beach Glass
Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com
- Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
- In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
- From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.
How to Acquire the Right Appraisal for Your Home
Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.
Appraised value vs. market value
The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.
Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.
If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.
What information goes into an appraisal?
Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.
They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
- The condition of the property and home, inside and out
- The home’s layout and features
- Home updates
- Overall quality of construction
- Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
- Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)
After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.
One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.
Who pays and how long does it take?
The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.
An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.
If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.
What if the appraisal is too low?
If your appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually, the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.
Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.
Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
- What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
- A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
- The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
- A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
- If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
- A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
- Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
- Any personal property that is included
- If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
- A copy of the original house plans and specifications
- A list of recent improvements and their costs
- Any other information you feel may be relevant
By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays and get the information you need quickly and satisfactorily!
Transforming Your House from a Summer Home to a Winter Hideaway
None of us want to admit it, but Winter is Coming. The new season of Game of Thrones might not be until 2019, but your home will need preparation before then. As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple Sundays should be more than enough to knock this out:
Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.
Insulation: Insulating a home can reduce your energy bill by up to 50%. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.
Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.
Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Don’t underestimate the difference some weatherstrips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.
Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Heating System: What’s one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Annual checks of are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have, remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.
Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%.
Outside: As we mentioned before, make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season. If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Emergency Kit: Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
Outfitting Your Home to Survive the Threat of Wildfires
Much of the Western United States is grappling with the same issue this summer – the specter of smoke and fire from some of the largest forest fires in recent memory. For individuals, even the decreased air quality can be a threat, while the destruction that the fires themselves can wreak is devastating. Homeowners living near impacted areas are often left with an impossible choice – pack up what they can and evacuate or remain in a dangerous location and hope for the best. Thankfully, homes needn’t be defenseless against the heat. To help fortify your home against damage stemming from fires, we brought together advice from a few experts.
Opt for Flame-Resistant Walls and Roofing
- It may be obvious but building a home out of non-flammable materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete is a key way to prevent a fire from taking hold initially.
- The troublesome spaces tend to be beyond the core of the home. Decks, balconies, and overhangs all commonly include wooden components that can be easy points of egress for embers.
- Replacing or coating these accent points with fireproof materials is a short-term expense that, much like insurance, prevents far greater financial strains in the future.
No Space is Too Small to Protect
- Think that little vent in the attic is too small to be an issue? Think again!
- Even vents built into kitchens and dryers should be considered as potential problem areas. Protecting these can allow continued circulation of air without incurring an excess fire risk.
- Wire screens with 1/8th” to 1/4th” between screen bars are typically enough to keep treacherous embers from sneaking into your home.
Fortify Your Windows
- The most vulnerable spots in most homes are glassy exterior windows. While their views are understandably gorgeous, they can be easy pressure points for fires to overpower.
- If you have the means to replace single-plane glass with wire glass or fireproof safety glass, that’s a worthwhile expense to ensure neither flames themselves nor radiant heat can shatter into your home.
- Beyond simply upgrading the glass, installing retractable fireproof exterior panels is the safest route to fire protection. And don’t forget your skylights!
The Most Ambitious Trends in Luxury Pool Design
When it comes to luxury home design, if you can imagine it, it can be done. In-home spas, luxe bowling alleys, and glass wine rooms are just a few examples we’re seeing out there. The same idea extends outdoors to swimming pools, which are a must for most luxury homes. But we aren’t talking about just any old backyard pool; they’re usually more masterpiece than mainstream. We consulted a few designers to get some insights into what’s trending in the world of luxury pools and here’s what we found.
Photo credit to AAA Custom Pools Inc.
- Catching the eye of all who behold it is the principal goal of a luxury pool. Since the dawn of time, nothing has delivered that reaction quite like fire.
- Accenting your backyard pool with stylish braziers emphasizes both elegance and authority.
- Such a style demands forethought, as safety is a priority. The right flame, however, sparks an ambiance unlike any other.
Custom Art Accoutrement
Photo credit to Van Kirk & Sons Pools and Spas.
- A home should represent its owners. A pool should be an extension of that.
- Styling a pool with custom art allows for expression. It can be a showcase of personal style, cultural heritage, or even personal fandom.
- Commissioning a professional artist to stylize your pool will ensure a one-of-a-kind amenity.
Photo credit to HomesOfTheRich.Net.
- Creating a man-made island with a creatively carved pool will render your yard an oasis unlike any other.
- With an integrated natural feel, you and your fellow swimmers can truly feel like you’ve discovered a secret spring in the midst of a jungle.
- Creating naturally treed islands or rocky outcroppings that serve as a waterfall in the midst of your pool can transform the feel into that of an exotic bar on the edge of the world.
New tax legislation was signed into law at the end of 2017, and it included some significant changes for homeowners. These changes took effect in 2018 and do not influence your 2017 taxes. Here’s a brief overview of this year’s tax changes and how they may affect you*.
The amount of mortgage interest you can deduct has decreased.
Under the old law, taxpayers could deduct the interest they paid on a mortgage of up to $1 million. The new law reduces the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000. These changes do not affect mortgages taken out before December 15, 2017.
The home equity loan deduction has changed.
The IRS states that, despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.
The property tax deduction is capped at $10,000.
Previously taxpayers could deduct all the state, local and foreign real estate taxes they paid with no cap on the amount. The new law limits the deduction for all state and local taxes – including income, sales, real estate, and personal property taxes – to $10,000.
The casualty loss deduction has been repealed.
Homeowners previously could deduct unreimbursed casualty, disaster and theft losses on their property. That deduction has been repealed, with an exception for losses on property located in a federally declared disaster area.
The capital gains exclusion remains unchanged.
Homeowners can continue to exclude up to $500,000 for joint filers or $250,000 for single filers for capital gains when selling their primary residence as long as they have lived in the home for two of the past five years. An earlier proposal would have increased that requirement to five out of the last eight years and phase out the exclusion for high-income households, but it was struck down. Find out more about 2018 tax reform.
How does tax reform affect your plans for buying or selling a home?
*Please consult your tax advisor if you have any questions about how the new tax reform impacts you
A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build
Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one of more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square food if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per food in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
Spring-Clean! And 7 More Ways to Make the Most of This Weekend
It’s time to clear out a closet, get ready for celebrations and, in some areas, get out the grill
1. Spring-clean your living room. Launder slipcovers, spot-clean walls and wash the front windows. On a roll? Drop off your area rug for professional cleaning if it needs it, and dust the front door, blinds and baseboards too.
2. Tidy up one corner of the garage. We’re not talking about deep cleaning here. Instead, pick one small zone (like the area nearest the door) where you’ll be able to make significant progress with an hour or two of effort.
Get rid of the easy stuff first: old catalogs, empty bags, broken tools and expired products. Put away items that belong elsewhere, then straighten up what’s left.
3. Ready your home for stormy weather. Just because spring is officially here doesn’t mean Mother Nature agrees, especially in the northeastern U.S., a region facing its fourth winter storm this month. Stay informed by checking your local news station for the latest information, and take some common sense precautions if a storm is headed your way. Make sure your car has a full tank of gas, charge your cellphones and other electronic devices, and gather enough supplies to last several days in case of a power outage.
If your basement is prone to flooding, elevate items off the floor and check the sump pump. Before the storm hits, secure outdoor furniture or bring it indoors, and clear any clogged rain gutters if possible. Learn more about how to prepare for a nor’easter at Mass.gov.
4. Store household and garden chemicals safely. National Poison Prevention Week in the U.S. (March 19 to 25) is a good reminder to check your home, garage and garden shed for household chemicals, medications and other items that may be harmful or even fatal if ingested (like e-cigarette products). Make sure these items are stored in their original packaging, up high and out of children’s sight. Chemicals in easy-to-open containers (such as fertilizers) should be kept in a securely locked cabinet or shed.
Visit the website of the American Association of Poison Control Centers for more information on how to poison-proof your home.
5. Do a spring wardrobe clean-out. The change of season is an ideal time to reassess what’s in your wardrobe.
Do all of the pieces in your closet fit well and align with your personal style? Remove items that are worn out, don’t fit or simply don’t feel like you, then make a list of any gaps in your wardrobe you’d like to fill this season.
6. Honor women’s history. March is Women’s History Month. Celebrate by reading a book or watching a film about women who have made important contributions to the world (Hidden Figures, anyone?), attending a lecture or learning about the women on your own family tree. If you’re up for a field trip, visit a museum with a Women’s History Month exhibit or tour a home — like the one belonging to America’s first female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker, shown here.
7. Get organized for spring and summer celebrations. Don’t let another birthday, wedding or baby shower sneak up on you — with a little advance preparation, you’ll always be ready for the occasion. First, check that you have all birthdays and upcoming occasions recorded in one place (such as on your phone or a paper perpetual calendar).
Next, gather supplies: a few rolls of versatile gift wrap, a handful of cards for all occasions and perhaps a stash of go-to hostess gifts will keep you stocked and ready to go. If you’re in a season of life when you’re attending lots of children’s birthday parties or baby showers, consider choosing one or two favorite gifts to keep on hand in multiples.
Homeowners Insurance: Protecting Your Home
In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. And it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.
What a standard homeowners policy covers
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.
Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.
If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.
How much insurance do you need?
Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:
· Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
· Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
· Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?
Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.
Protect your assets
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.
Rebuild your home
You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.
The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.
Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.
Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.
Replacing your valuables
If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.
There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectables. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.
To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.
Create a home inventory file
It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease. The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value. Simple inventory lists are available online. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:
· Item description and quantity
· Manufacturer or brand name
· Serial number or model number
· Where the item was purchased
· Receipt or other proof of purchase \Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser
· Date of purchase (or age)
· Current value
· Replacement cost
Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.
Storing your home inventory list
Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe incase your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.
We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.