Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…

The warm weather is SO over. It’s about time to turn the heat on. Some of you may use your fireplace for ambiance, some of you may use it for warmth. Whatever its purpose, please make sure your chimney is inspected on a yearly basis if you plan on using your fireplace. The chimney professional will tell you if it needs to be cleaned or if more extensive corrective work needs to be done. The last thing you want is a chimney fire that can spread to the rest of your home. Additionally, keep a fire extinguisher in the room if you choose to use your fireplace.

openhearth.jpgIf you’re looking for a local source of firewood, I have a recommendation for you that also supports a good cause. The Open Hearth is an organization that conducts a comprehensive continuum of care service model in a traditional emergency shelter that accommodates 25 adult men and an 84-bed Transitional Living Program. The Open Hearth Wood Products facility offers firewood for your needs, while providing an opportunity for men-in-transition to get some experience and give back. Sales revenue from the program offsets other costs for The Open Hearth. You can order half and full cords of seasoned hardwood for burning. Delivery is free to Hartford, Bloomfield, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Newington, West Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor, and for a small fee is deliverable within a 20-mile radius of the the city of Hartford.

We have ordered wood from The Open Hearth the past two years and have had nothing but a good experience. You can order online or over the phone and arrange a delivery time. The drop off at our house was quick and easy. The quality of the wood was superb compared to what we ordered in previous years from other sources. Thank you Open Hearth!

Water in the Basement- Now What?

This week I went to preview a house for some clients. They indicated interest, so rather than waste their time, I went to check it out to see if the floor plan would meet their needs.

The house is in a very desireable neighborhood in West Hartford. I walked around the first floor and the layout seemed to meet their needs. So far, so good. Then I checked out the upstairs. Good sized bedrooms and a master bath. Perfect, just what they’re looking for. I’m heading for the front door and then realize I should also look in the basement to see if the mechanicals have been recently updated. I turn on the light and a nice surprise, the basement looks finished. Ah, extra square footage, always a good thing. I walk down the steps and as I land on the carpet I hear “squish.” Huh, what was that? I take another step. “Squish.” “Squish, squish, squish.” The basement carpet is soaked.

Swell. Is a pipe broken? What is going on here? The listing office told me that the homeowner is gone for several days, so no one knows about the issue but me. Time to investigate to see if I can figure out what caused it and determine if it’s still actively flooding. Squish, squish, squish. Nope, the pipes seem fine. There are what appear to be older water stains on the carpet and the soaking area is below a basement window. Must be the gutters overflowed during the massive rainstorm we recently endured, directly into the basement window. I trek outside to see if my theory is right. Yep, there is gunk sticking out of the gutters and the mulch around the window well has been completely washed away. At this point I call the listing agent’s cell phone and leave a message for him explaining the issue, as I know the home is vacant for a few days. He never calls me back to acknowledge he received my message or ask me about the situation.

Before I left the house I picked up the Seller’s Disclosures that were provided. They indicate no issues with basement water seepage or dampness. But there was a dehumidifier in the basement, there were older water stains, and I just saw that it was flooded. My disclosure to the other agent has now made this a material fact, which means that, legally, he should disclose this going forward. Will this happen? Most likely not. Did I tell my buyers about this issue? You betcha. If they have any interest in the property I will urge them to get a mold test and ask for monetary concessions to deal with the problem.

This type of situation probably happens all of the time because disclosing an infrequent problem is unlikely to be seen and would only reduce the price a seller can get for the house. This type of deception is illegal, but likely happens on a regular basis because there is a stong financial incentive to do so. I was just fortunate enough to see the problem at its worst, so if my buyers are interested I can adequately protect them. This just illustrates the importance of getting a home inspection in order to further protect your future investment.

Knob and Tube Wiring

If you’re looking to purchase a home that was built between the late 1880s and early 1930s, your home inspector may discover knob and tube was used as the electrical wiring. While some argue that the knob and tube is actually superior to current electrical wiring practices, the age of the system typically leads to some type of degredation, therefore necessitating that it be at least partially replaced and upgraded.

It’s becoming more and more common now that buyers are unable to get a home insurance policy on a home with knob and tube. What insurance companies were willing to insure just 2-3 years ago has changed. If your home inspection turns up knob and tube, the homeowner will most likely need to upgrade the system in order to sell the home. You won’t be able to get an insurance policy to satisfy your mortgage commitment otherwise. I’ve seen this issue pop up twice in the past week. The seller now has to upgrade the system before the closing in each case. If you’re a seller, you might want to consider having the wiring fixed even before you list your house for sale. You’ll head off potential issues.

If you’re not familiar with knob and tube, here are two good links that give helpful explanations of how the wiring works and why it needs to be upgraded. Ask The Home Inspector and Wikipedia.

Why Do I Need a Building Permit?

Spring is here and you’re thinking about doing some renovations on your home. Maybe you’re having a new roof put on, a new kitchen installed, or building a new deck. You’ve heard about building permits, but do you really need to apply for one? What are the implications if you don’t? And how much do they cost?

Permits are required to protect your health and safety, and the health and safety of the community where you live. Town staff review your improvement requests and ensure that all changes align with minimum safety and community standards (referred to as “Code”). Permits (building, electrical, plumbing, etc.) typically cost approximately $25 per $1000 of the estimated improvement cost, but it will vary from town to town.

If you’re not doing the improvements on your own, always hire a licensed contractor. They should pull the necessary permits for you. Ask them if they plan on pulling permits on your behalf for the job. Any reputable contractor will say “Yes.” If they don’t, request that they do pull a permit, or consider hiring someone else. Ask for copies of the permits before they start the work. Once they finish the job, the contractor should schedule a time for the town inspector to come through and verify that the work performed meets Code. Your permit will then be closed and the work has been legally and safely performed, per the town. A Certificate of Occupancy will be generated, if applicable. Always keep this documentation for your records. It will be valuable for legal purposes and if you later sell your home.

If you’re planning on doing the work on your own, call the town Permits and Licenses division in order to understand exactly what permits you need. They will guide you through the paperwork process. When you’re finished with the improvements, you’ll need to schedule a time for the town inspector to verify the work meets Code. Again, your permit will be closed if the work has been legally and safely performed and meets building code.

But what happens if permits are not pulled? If you choose not to pull permits and it is discovered by the town or a future buyer, you could have a costly situation on your hands. Work that has been done and paid for may not comply with Code. The work may need to be removed. Imagine ripping out your new bathroom because it didn’t meet plumbing code! Additionally, insurance coverage could be denied. You may be fined for not pulling a permit before the work was performed. Legal action could be initiated to ensure compliance.

So, in order to avoid a potentially costly situation down the line, always call the Permits and Licenses division in your town to understand what permits you need for your specific project.