Law/Regulations · Real Estate · Selling Real Estate

Washington State Residents, Did you know…

Did you know that effective July 1, 2010 Washington state adopted the 2009 International Building, Residential, Mechanical and Fire Codes?

One change that is of particular interest to the real estate market is the requirement that all existing residences (Residential Building Group R1, R2 and R3) sold on or after July 1, 2011 must have carbon monoxide (CO2) alarms (complying with UL 2034) installed based on this new code and the manufacturer’s installation instructions. This means sellers will be required to install them before selling. Fortunately, a seller should be able to easily purchase carbon monoxide detectors in the smoke alarm section of any local building or hardware store or department.

Starting January 1, 2011 all new construction homes (Residential Building Group R-1, R-2 and R-3) will also be required to have CO2 detectors installed.

According to the Washington State Building Code Counsel, Group R-1 includes hotels & motels, R-2 includes apartments and R-3 single family, except owner occupied single family.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engine-powered equipment such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that on average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas. In 2005 alone, CPSC staff is aware of at least 94 generator-related CO poisoning deaths. Forty-seven of these deaths were known to have occurred during power outages due to severe weather, including Hurricane Katrina. Still others die from CO produced by non-consumer products, such as cars left running in attached garages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms every year to be treated for CO poisoning.

For more information about this upcoming change check out the Washington State Building Code Counsel or your local building code office.

For information about the dangers of carbon monoxide, refer to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Please note that I am not endorsing the above brand of CO2 detector, I merely included a picture to show what one looks like.  They look very similar to smoke detectors. There are also combo smoke and CO2 detectors on the market.

And now for my disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer, so please consult a legal professional if you have questions.

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Buyers · Real Estate

Asbestos…

Today most people know that asbestos is hazardous to one’s health, but did you know that the material dates back to 3000 BC? Back then it was viewed as a miracle material that wouldn’t burn and for it’s insulating properties. Roman restaurant owners used table cloths woven with asbestos, which is a mineral that is soft like cotton. They would throw them in the fire to clean them for the next customer. The table cloths would come out of the fire cleaner than they went in.

Over time, ancient Roman leaders began to realize that slaves that worked with asbestos developed lung sickness. Health problems associated with asbestos were ignored for years and the material was widely used in many common items. By the 1970’s asbestos was openly recognized as a contributor to serious health problems and the use of it has greatly diminished.

Asbestos has a history of being used in building materials. Though it is not used today, there are homes that may have been built with it. When shopping for a home, buyers need to be aware of it’s use in roofing, siding, floor tiles, ceilings, duct work, insulation, etc.  Primarily, any home built prior to the 1990’s may have asbestos building material in them.  For more info on materials to look for, check out Inspectapedia.com.

Removal of asbestos materials in a home requires special care.  It is recommended you hire a professional that is qualified to properly remove asbestos from a home.

Real Estate

You Need A Solid Foundation…

Basement wall cracks inside.
Visible basement wall cracks inside.

When looking to buy or rent a home, there are some things that don’t require an engineering degree to figure out.

In these pictures notice the cracks in the basement wall on the inside, see the mold growing on the wall and the obvious cracks in the foundation on the outside. Take note that the tree outside is located right where the crack is on the inside. This is a good example why we should never plant large trees close to a foundation. (Click pictures for larger view.)

This home was built in the 1940’s. The original foundation is brick & mortar. At one time the foundation was resurfaced with another product over the original foundation.  Now that resurfaced product is cracking on top of the original mortar that has obviously lost it’s integrity over the years.

With so many homes to choose from, there are times when a site inspection by a buyer or renter can eliminate a home from their list based on obvious structural issues like these. Once you find a home you really like, I always recommend an inspection by a licensed professional to find any less obvious problems.

NOTE: The house in these pictures was rented by a friend of mine who prioritized rental cost over structural warning signs.  Unfortunately for her, the mold effected her so bad she had to break her lease and move out. She may have saved money on rent, but in the long run the cost of legal advice and moving twice ended up costing more.  Don’t make the same mistake she did; heed the warning signs and get an inspection.

Visual Mold
Visible mold growing on the wall.
Outside where crack is located inside.
Outside corner where crack is located inside.
Obvious foundation cracks.
Obvious foundation cracks.
Law/Regulations · Real Estate

$8000 Tax Credit For 1st Time Buyers…

First-time home buyer?

If you haven’t owned a principal, single family home in the three years prior to purchase, you may be eligible for a tax credit up to $8,000.  This credit is available on homes purchased on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.  Generous income limits apply, single $75,000, married filing jointly $150,000.   There is no repayment as long as you keep the home for 3 years.

I’ve attached a link for some additional information about this tax credit.  For more information about this tax credit, please contact a qualified tax professional.

Home Repair

Why get a Pest & Dry Rot Inspection?

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words!

Below is an example of the damage carpenter ants can do to a house. This is why all buyers should WANT a Pest & Dry Rot Inspection done by a licensed professional inspector.

Carpenter ants are mean and will bit if you get in their way.  The exterminator that was called to take care of this nest of roughly 1000 ants said there can be up 5-6000 ants in a nest, depending on how long the nest is allowed to go undisturbed.  Based on the damage below, it was estimated this nest had been working for 1 year. At this point of damage, the ants were making their way into the homeowner’s house.

Note the pile of wood powder in the studs.  These studs will have to be replaced by a licensed contractor before this exterior wall is closed back up.

Carpenter Ants
Carpenter Ants
History

House #3…our Money Pit:

First let me say that this happened in 1993, so some of the details may have been missed, but the majority of the points are covered.

We made an offer for $76,000 on a house that was remodeled by the owner who we were told was a contractor.   Financing would be a VA Home Loan.  The owners were in the process of dividing the property into 3 lots.  The house was on the first lot.  They were creating 2 flag lots on the back of the property.   The house remodel was not complete, but we were assured it would be complete by the time we were supposed to move in.  Our offer was accepted.  We were told we could move in before we closed (rent from the owners) if need be, because they were waiting for a final plot approval by the city on the property before we could close on the property.  We were told this process was nearly complete.  Everything sounded good to us.  The owners were planning to build new houses behind us.  We thought that would be good for the future value of our home.  Escrow was opened.  We were excited!

  • Lesson #1:  Pay attention to the warning signs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

We were verbally told the unfinished kitchen cabinets were going to be stained a clear blue-gray (this was not in writing).  One day we went out to the house to see how the cabinets looked after they were stained.  We were disappointed to see the cabinets were painted an opaque white.  We asked our Realtor why we weren’t told of this change since we were buying the house.  We were counseled that we could risk losing the deal if we make an issue of the matter.  Though we thought we were mislead, we didn’t want to risk delaying our purchase so we let it go.

The completion of the remodel work on the house slowed.  We expressed concerns to our Realtor.  She assured us that the owner promised the house would be ready for us and that it would happen.  We were told the owner had other houses he was working on.  Our moving in date was fast approaching and there still were things that were not done. 

  • Lesson #2:  Get a home inspection!

The VA appraisal came in based on the anticipated completion of the house.  Once it was done, a final needed to done before closing.  Some of the list included a furnace inspection, installation of a dryer vent, and the ceiling over the new family room needed to be properly insulated (the house had been disclosed as having new insulation).  Our lender began pushing to get these things done.

  • Lesson #3:  Don’t move into a house before ownership transfers.

We moved in as if we were supposed to be the owners.  I put up window coverings, blinds, wallpaper borders, bathroom mirrors over the sinks, towel bars, etc.  My husband built a play structure in the back yard for our daughters.  We started to fix some things because we didn’t want to wait for the owner to do the work.

The insulation above the family room turned out to be a bunch of styrofoam tossed all over.  My husband said he could install the insulation if the owner paid for the insulation.  The owner fought this request because he said lt the insulation in there (syrofoam) was superior insulation to fiberglass insulation and didn’t need to be replaced.  The owner reluctantly gave into our request because the lender required it. 

After we moved into the house we found all sorts of problems.  The dryer vent was “installed” but not vented to the outside.  It was vented into the crawlspace–moisture to the crawlspace.  The bathroom fans vented to the attic, not to the outside–moisture to the attic.  The owner fought correcting these issues, so my husband fixed both.  One day I was using the bathroom sink and I heard water running in the bathroom that sounded like it was under the heat vent.  I pulled the vent off the floor and there was NO duct work under the house connecting the vent to the furnace!  I was hearing the water in the bathroom sink drain pipe that was located under the vent. 

Remember the furnace inspection required by the VA Appraiser?  We found out the furnace was not completely installed.  The burner needed to be replaced before it would be approved by the gas company.  Now add to the list hooking up the furnace duct work.  The owner fought this.  We won because the gas company required the repair work and the lender the duct work.

Needless to say, we were upset.  We were pushing to get the house done so we could close.  We had done a lot of work on the house already.  We pushed to find out the status of the plot map.  We found out the plot approval was stopped because the owner didn’t pay the engineer that did the plans.  A lien was put against the property and the owner was trying to work a deal with them to release the plot map to get the process going.  This meant the city approval process had NOT really begun!  We were paying them “rent” to live in an incomplete house and our ownership date was moving farther and farther out.

The owner would promise to come out to work on the house.  He would show up for a couple hours and then leave.  It seemed closing the deal wasn’t a priorty to the owner.  Afterall, they were getting rent from us.  Since we were paying them rent, we decided to use tenant-landlord laws to force the owner to do some of the repairs.

  • Lesson #4:  Talk to the neighbors.  Check out the crime rate and look up registered criminals in the neighborhood BEFORE making offer on a house.

We started talking to our new neighbors.  We found out the owner of our house was doing a remodel job for one of our neighbors.  Apparently they saw him working on the house we were in and hired him to do an addition on their house.  We became friends (allies).  The addition on their house was faulty and they wanted to sue the contractor (the owner of the house we were trying to buy).  We compared stories.  When he left our house, he was going over to their house.  There was a pattern of problems.

One of our neighbors that lived in a little rental house next door had frequent, loud, domestic disputes at all hours.  There were always a lot of different people going in and out of the house.  One day I saw their oldest child playing with a large knife outside my window.  I called child services and reported them.  These were my neighbors?  My children’s peers?  I hoped they would move away.

We were beginning to think the deal was not going to happen.  We wondered if we should walk away from the house, take our losses and move on.  Our closing date was now over a month ago with no closing date in sight.  Housing prices were slowly going up.  If we walked away from the deal, we were sure the owners would relist the house for more money.

  • Lesson #5:  Put an escape clause date and time in your sales contract.

Through it all, our Realtor assured us things would work out.  Our breaking point was the day I came home from work to see our fence had been bulldozed and removed!  The owner took the fence to one of their other properties!  We were told we could force him to bring the fence back, but we were tired of fighting with the owner to get the house done.  We had enough.  We wanted out of the deal!!!

 And that is another story for another day… .