Alert: Extreme Cold Ahead

Real Estate Alert 2019-01-19

The precipitation is getting all the headlines, but the extreme cold predicted to follow is just as concerning.

Take a couple minutes today to make sure your house is ready for extended single-digit temperatures. Check your heating oil level, drain the exterior spigots, and bring in some firewood if you regularly burn fires. If you have drafty windows or doors, then consider buying insulating strips to temporarily plug the cracks.

Stay warm, and make sure your house stays warm too. Frozen pipes are bad news.

A Well Maintained Building

39 Woodland - 5200 - 1920

The well maintained building at 39 Woodland Street in Hartford is identified by the Structures and Styles book as the Melancthon W. Jacobus, Sr. House. Its Tudor Revival architecture is in excellent condition 110 years after construction!

Kudos to the State for the recent maintenance to keep the 29,571 square foot structure looking good. The building is currently the central office for the Connecticut Technical Education and Career Center.

Repairing Crumbling Foundations

CT Department of Housing
Photo: CT Department of Housing

Property owners in a portion of Connecticut have been struggling with foundation problems. The concrete mix used to build their homes included pyrrhotite, which is a mineral that causes foundations to deteriorate due to exposure to air and water.

There is no way to repair a defective foundation. The only way to save a home with pyrrhotite is to replace the foundation, a very expensive project.

Home insurers didn’t think replacing the foundation was their responsibility since nothing new had happened to the house. Buyers avoided homes where there was any suspicion of foundation problems. Homeowners with the issue were basically stuck. They had to deal with it on their own.

The State Legislature stepped in during the 2018 session to create a non-profit organization called the Connecticut Foundation Solutions Indemnity Company, Inc. (CFSIC). The CFSIC will begin working with property owners in January 2019 to process crumbling foundation claims, and pay for replacement.

CFSIC is primarily funded by the State of Connecticut, which will issue $20 million in bonds per year for five years to seed the program. A second source of funding, a $12 surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies, was also authorized by the Legislature. The surcharge is expected to contribute $8.5 million per year.

Additional assistance may also be available to impacted property owners. For example, Travelers recently announced that they could contribute $5 million to enhance the CFSIC benefit for their current and former policyholders. Not sure if other insurers will step up, but it’s great that one of our local companies has.

The crumbling foundation problem can be financially devastating to homeowners. We’re glad that there is a process in place to address the issue, and hope that the application process proceeds smoothly for those who are impacted.

Close the Door

“Close the door” is a time-tested piece of advice.

Growing up in Vermont, the main reason to close the door was to keep the heat from getting out. Apparently barns are notorious for having open doors where I’m from. Being told to close the door was generally followed by a comment about how we don’t live in a barn. Which was true, we didn’t live in a barn.

There’s a strong case to be made in more densely populated areas that it is important to close the door so that strangers don’t come into your place. Not as much of a concern in Vermont, but here in Hartford there are enough curious folks walking around that I could imagine one investigating a door left open with nobody in sight. Maybe not the first time the door was left open, or even most times, but it seems plausible.

I recently learned of a new reason to close the door. It would seem that the door of this building is a primary defense against local wildlife.

Close the Door

After touring the property, it seemed clear that the home’s defenses had failed. Either the door was left open, against the clear instruction provided by the sign, or the fauna found a different way inside. I heard lots of scratching in the basement ceiling.

Cleaning Out the Stuff

As a homeowner and a listing agent, I dislike clutter. The more that is removed, the better.

Last fall I spent some time on the perpetual project of organizing and cleaning out our basement. There were four boxes of empty 3-ring binders that had been on their way out for quite some time. All the paper they used to contain was recycled long ago. After removing the labels and other personalizations, it was time to get them out of here.

Empty Binders

It occurred to me that much of the clutter in our house comes from things we bought but no longer use.

The binders are a great example of something our lives have moved on from. When we were in business school we used business cases rather than textbooks, so we had to have shelves full of binders to store all the paper. It was important at one time, but that time has passed. The things we have moved on from have to go.

We have more than just binders that are no longer in use. Much of it I’m ready to part with, but there is still an attachment to other items. Some things have sentimental value. Others are still there because I believe they might come in handy one day.

Cleaning out is a process, and I’ve found that it’s good to evaluate everything regularly.

Cleaning out is especially important for people who are selling their homes. Once the home sells, all of that stuff is coming out of the basement, and attic, and closets, and garage no matter what. Do you need it in your new place? Do you want to pay to move it, especially if it to be shoved back in the attic and never heard from again?

It’s okay to get rid of things. And for sellers, eliminating clutter can help you get a better price for your home.