Posts filed under ‘Fix It’

Our 5 cents on popcorn removal

Owner:  Should I really remove the popcorn from my ceiling?  popcorn

Realtor:  Preferably.  Good friend:  definitely.

Ah, the popcorn question. It is very much a dated thing. HGTV has helped the buying public refine their tastes but no one likes the popcorn in Austin. Why did they use them in the first place?  It was cheaper than painting.  The problems?  Besides the dated factor, they get dirty (they collect dust, cannot be brush them off), serve no purpose (besides an easier job for the painters) and are very messy to remove (vacant is best).

In Austin, buyers walk into a house (most buyers, not all) and when they see the popcorn ceilings actually say “ugh.” Generally, the top 3 things you can do to update a house (besides removing orange and green and / or golden things) are wallpaper, kitchen basics & popcorn ceilings.

It’s not all that difficult to remove, but it’s very messy so best done in a vacant home before you move in.  I have done one room myself personally.  That was fun.  Now, from here on out, I’ll hire it out.  If you live in the home, you want to seriously tape off the room and seal any vents as dust is a big issue with this project. 

How to remove?  Simply put:  spray with water, scrape, repeat.

If the texture was applied before 1978, it may contain asbestos.  The only way to know is with a lab test through a certified asbestos testing agency.  I think you can get a kit at Home Depot. 

A more detailed how-to:  http://www.ehow.com/how_15096_remove-popcorn-texture.html 

If you’re selling your house, you’ll want to seriously consider the popcorn “ugh” factor.  Austin buyers are picky and we want to optimize their first impression of the home.  Everyone talks about curb appeal (very important) but there is the open-the-front-door appeal and popcorn ceilings will get an immediate mild groan … happens all the time.

The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty in Austin strives to provide valuable real estate information and news through this blog and our other online resources.  Find more about The Nelson Project and search for Austin homes at www.TheNelsonProject.com.  If you like this blog, you may want to visit our totally useful Austin neighborhood portal.  We think you may also like www.tacomap.info (tacos first, real estate second).  If you really like what you see, tell your friends to call us with all their Austin real estate needs.
… © Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

December 8, 2010 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

Should I stay or should I go? … I talked a client out of selling & buying today

I have been talking with prospective clients for a couple weeks about selling their central Austin home and purchasing a newer home with more space & less maintenance.  They were asking me to help them analyze their options including staying, adding on, basic rehab, maybe kitchen remodel, doing nothing, selling as fixer-upper, how much equity to use or not to use, what is deferred maintenance, what is improvement, best equity & appreciation outlook.  I could tell one spouse was gung-ho and the other not on board.  It is the proverbial “should I stay or should I go” debate; the add-on / rehab vs. buy a new house discussion.

The sell would be around $250k, the purchase maybe $300k.  That’s over $15k in commission for my business.  I think I just talked them out of moving and I feel good about it.  Here’s why …

They wanted to know what their best equity & appreciation position would be for a 5-10 year outlook.  Based on neighborhood #1 (current & near Mueller, Cherrywood) and neighborhood #2 (prospective new, slightly suburban), the best outlook was to stay put, take care of the deferred maintenance, fix up the kitchen, enjoy the kitchen, grow the equity.  They may decide to sell in a couple years or may stay put for 10, but the neighborhoods surrounding Mueller have an excellent outlook and are better insulated from market fluctuations than the suburbs.

It’s the honest truth and it is my job to look after my clients’ best financial interests.  The Realtor code of ethics says that is my obligation; it’s my shortest job description.

Some things that may have swayed the decision or recommendations the other way include:  if they were both on the same page, if the motivation to move was solidly in place for both, if they needed to sell & buy to create a better financial situation.  Any one of those things solidly in place and we would probably be moving forward to sell the house.

I see couples change their minds all the time and I get that.  It can be a lot of money and a lot of hassle to rehab the kitchen and work through the deferred maintenance … some folks are up to the task, some embrace it, some not so much.  They may call me in a few weeks or six months and want to move forward.  Or they may end up falling in love with their house and their neighborhood and themselves all over again.

The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty in Austin strives to bring you valuable real estate information and news through this blog and our other online resources.  Find more about The Nelson Project and search for Austin homes at www.TheNelsonProject.com.  if you like this blog, you may want to visit our totally useful Austin neighborhood portal.  If you really like what you see, tell your friends to call us with all their Austin real estate needs.

 

© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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July 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm 2 comments

Goodbye pink, hello tight …

Removing old pink insulation …

Continue Reading February 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Home Warranty Coverage – What does it do for me?

The mystical home warranty. This blog tells more about general home warranty coverage, what it costs, and includes a few tricks of the trade you’ll need to know when reporting any problem to your warranty company!

Continue Reading August 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Diary of an Energy Audit

we were pretty sure our 1976 Northwest Hills home could use some efficiency improvements.

Continue Reading July 21, 2009 at 12:09 am 1 comment

Austin Energy Audit – 1st stats

85% of homes are leaking above the “10% or less” that is considered acceptable for energy efficiency

Continue Reading June 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm 1 comment

Trudging through Texas Real Estate: What to expect from the Contract Option Period as a buyer or seller

If you’ve ever put off a ‘honeydo list’ of pesky home repairs, getting to those can be essential if you are getting ready to put your home on the market for sale.

Continue Reading May 18, 2009 at 12:01 am 1 comment

Bail out

Just wanted to get this out quick because it’s the best summary I’ve seen this week …

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) 09.26.08 – As negotiations continue over the proposed $700 billion bailout of the nation’s financial system, Dr. Mark Dotzour, chief economist for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, offers his perspective:

“It’s a sad day in America when the federal government (the American taxpayer) has to bail out homeowners who purchased homes they couldn’t possibly afford. It’s sad because of the vast majority of Americans who live within their means and pay their mortgages on time are now being asked to pay for other people’s mistakes.

“It’s a sad day in America when we have to spend billions to bail out financial institutions that made loans to those people, then sold those loans to pension funds and endowment associations that had no idea of the risk they were taking when they bought the ‘complex and sophisticated’ bonds. ‘Complex and sophisticated’ is just a euphemism for ‘I have no earthly idea what I’m buying.’

“Now for the pragmatism. If we don’t bail out the banks, the American economy grinds to a halt. Many U.S. businesses are financed with short-term notes that mature in 90 to 180 days. This is called commercial paper. What happens when your 90-day note matures, and nobody will refinance it? Just ask Fannie and Freddie, who had $225 billion in short-term notes mature and nobody would refinance them. Hasta la vista. The commercial paper market is virtually frozen, and many businesses are in the same boat as Frannie was.

“The smartest people working in the global financial system say that this $700 billion is a good first step, that it might help to thaw the frozen credit markets but that the devil is in the details. Some say it might take another $500 billion later.

“The fact is that there is a market for these bad loans. It’s about 22 cents on the dollar. The problem is that nobody wants to sell for that price as long as the taxpayers will pay a higher price. So the federal government will buy these assets for a higher price, and it’s possible that they can sell them later and make a profit. It’s possible that the net cost to the taxpayer will be very little. The bottom line is that we are in uncharted waters, and this $700 billion plan is the best plan that seems to have some hope of temporarily solving the problem.

“The long-term problem is still on the table, and that is the simple fact that the U.S. government can’t keep spending more money than it has. Even governments can go bankrupt. The long-term solution for the U.S. government and every American household is to live within their means.

“Who is going to want to invest in mortgage bonds in the future if the federal government can freeze the interest rates below what was promised? Who is going to want to invest in mortgage bonds if the government can cram down the principal on the bonds you bought? Until the federal government can restore some confidence in the global investment community that if you buy a mortgage bond you have a reasonable certainty of getting your principal and the promised interest, the problems will linger.

“The bailout is inevitable and has to happen. Expect more to come. These are just bandages on a gaping wound. Hopefully lessons will be learned, and we will begin to address the illness and not just put on more bandages.”

September 26, 2008 at 8:03 pm 1 comment

Thinking tankless?

By our favorite South Austin contributor–Patti P. 

One night last week I planned on cooking pasta for dinner—knowing what time the family would most likely be home and ready to pounce on their plates—and being that it was my turn to cook—I started the big pot of pasta water before everyone was home and let it simmer on the stove, figuring I could turn up the flame as soon as the front door opened to get the pot to a rolling boil quickly.  Thus dinner would be served, consumed, cleaned up in record time and we could hop right on to evening events. 

  

Instead of being an organized time saver, I unwisely wasted quite a bit of energy keeping that pot of pasta water on simmer.  Yep, I’m a noodle head in more ways than one. 

  

But simmering that pot of water is no different than the traditional water heater that you probably have in your house.  It keeps your water heated 24 hours a day—when you’re sleeping and even when you’re not home.   Wasting energy?  Yep you are.  Which may make you a noodle head too. 

  

An energy efficient but not necessary economical alternative to those continuously heating water tanks is the tankless or “demand” water heater that has been common in Japan and Europe and has gained some popularity in the U.S. since the “go green” movement started leafing out in the early 1990’s.   

  

Tankless water heaters heat water on demand with a heating device that kicks in when a flow of water goes across the internal sensors (you’ve opened the hot water valve).  The flow sensors turn off when the flow detector detects that you’ve turned off the hot water valve.  Tankless water heaters are about the size of a briefcase; no storage heater with drip pan needed.   

  

Traditional storage water heaters rise and maintain hot water temperature and have to turn on sporadically to store and maintain your set temperature 24/7.  And they are much much bigger than a briefcase. 

  

There’s a plethora of information out there on tankless water heaters, and the pros and cons differ depending on whether the source of information is a green energy company, a utility provider, a consumer organization or a tankless water heater manufacturer.  To help you decide if going tankless is for you, I’ve combined all the major pros and cons from the sources above and will leave it to you to weigh your “greens”: energy savings vs. green dollars. 

  

Tankless pros:  energy, baby

·     Tankless heaters run by cleaner* renewable gas (with electronic ignitions) use about 20% less energy than traditional gas run storage water heaters based on an average usage of 78 gallons of hot water a day (which is about 3 showers, 1 laundry load, running dishwasher once and the faucet 9 times).  Does this reflect your typical household usage?  This percentage of savings is according to the October 2008 issue of consumer reports.  Manufacturers tend to claim 30%-50% energy savings, and the green guide comes in at 34% (which is the average of all claims above).  *Cleaner than electricity. 

·     Tankless do not have energy “standby” losses which can represent 10-20% of a typical household’s annual water heating costs.  Standby loss means that traditional storage heaters have to keep heating water in the tank as it cools off. 

·     Tankless take up only a small space: again the size of a briefcase as opposed to a small water holding silo.  Great feature for smaller house living. 

·     With a tankless you don’t have a huge tank of water sitting in your house with a drip pan underneath…and drip pans are for… 

·     Tankless are less likely to leak or rupture (good news if your water heater is in your attic like my last one was). 

·     Reportedly tankless are less prone to mineral and sediment build up—which makes sense because you’re not storing up water. 

·     Once the tankless water senses the hot water faucet is turned on, you’ll have a limitless supply of hot water (based on your water wise conscience and ability to pay for the gas that is heating your water). 

·     Tankless last about 20 years vs. 10 years for a traditional storage heater (helping to cut down on waste in the landfills). 

·     You can save $70-$80 a year on your household energy bill (based on conventional bill of $200 a year for gas storage heater and $450 for an electric storage heater).  

·     You may be able to qualify for utility company rebates and state tax credits by installing a tankless heater.  Go to www.dsireusa.org.  This is a data base of state incentives for renewable energy. 

·     The greenguide says that tankless can provide hot water in as little as 5 seconds as opposed to 30 seconds that it takes some storage heaters to send that warm liquid your way.  Some consumer reports contradict this statement (which is coming up in the cons…)
 

Tankless cons: green conscience vs. green dollars 

  • Upfront costs for a tankless water heater are high: $800-$1,500 compared to $300-$400 for traditional storage tanks.  The greenguide tested what they claim to be the most efficient systems and these run as high as $3,920 down to $850 depending on size of house and proximity of main tankless to farther faucets/bathrooms.   
  • Installation costs run around $1,200 (compared to $300 for a storage water heater) because tankless need electrical outlets for the fan & internal electronics, upgraded gas pipes and a new ventilation system.   
  • OK, based on the cited initial costs of installing a tankless, it would take you about 22 years to recoup your initial investment (which might be superfluous at this point as tankless have a life expectancy of 20 years. 
  • In order to have enough water available on demand, you may have to have a central unit for the house and then additional POU “point of use” units installed in bathrooms and farther faucet.
  • You may find inconsistent hot water temperatures with an on demand water heater; e.g. if you just need a tiny trickle of water so you can shave, there may not be enough water passing over the internal sensors of the tankless heater to know to start heating.  So, in this case you could end up wasting water by letting the faucet run at a higher rate just to get hot water to lather up your mug. 
  • The faster the flow of water, however, that passes over the internal sensors the less time the water spends in the heating element.  So, particularly in the shower, you may find yourself mixing some cold and some hot water until you can fine tune the temperature.  Could take a little practice.   
  • And, this is where my eyes started glazing over with facts and figures: depending on your ground water temperature for your area (no I do not know mine) your tankless may not deliver sufficient hot water if the ground water is cold.  Like in Vermont where hairdryers are used more for thawing frozen pipes than they are for creating high hairdos.   

 

So, there you have it.  The pros and cons of going tankless.  If saving energy is important you, the expense may be worth it.  If you want to take baby steps toward saving energy—insulate your current water heater well and reduce your use of hot water. 

  

Thanks for reading.  Patti P.

 

 

 

September 23, 2008 at 2:25 am 4 comments

Repair Chronicles #4: Clog blog (in the slab, baby!)


I closed on an investment property in Austin on February 13th. The property was a 1960’s house in north/central Austin, Jamestown area. It had been inspected and there was nothing that presented a red flag on the inspection report. The property appeared to be move-in ready.

On February 14, I was doing a little painting and decided to run the drapes through the wash. Next thing I knew I was ankle deep in water in the laundry room. I immediately called my home warranty and they sent a plumber. I initially thought it was a clogged drain and I would be done to the tune of my $60 co-pay. After 4 hours of trying, the clog remained and it was evident that the problem was a clogged trap, in the slab. Ugh.

I got another company, we’ll call them D Plumbing, to do a diagnostic on the line. Not all plumbers do this type of diagnostic and D came qualified and recommended. They pulled the toilet, checked the lines to the street and all appeared fine. They too tried to unclog the pipe with no luck. They too said it was a clogged trap. They could not use the camera in the washer line so they used another diagnostic test to locate the trap in the slab. The machine acted somewhat like a metal detector and found where the end of the auger stopped which indicated where the clog was. So we needed bids to jackhammer the slab in the living room to reach the clog and replace the trap.

The next several days I got several bids in the range of $2-5k. I had D Plumbing mark the spot that they said the trap was in so if I used another company, they would be able to locate it. After trying to get the D to get me on their schedule to do the work, they were not able to give me a definite time frame and were very rude on the phone. I explained the urgency with the tenant moving in but they were not willing to work with me in any way.

I found another person, a contractor, through the realtor and friend who was the selling agent on the property to get her plumber over there. I had a tenant moving in in 2 weeks and was getting nervous about getting the job finished so I had to move fast. I could not wait on D who was giving me the run around.

The 2nd plumbers worked for 3 days jack hammering and digging in the area that D indicated the trap was in. The hole was so deep and wide, three people could have climbed inside but no trap was there. I finally called D and explained that the plumbers could not find the pipe anywhere. Mr. D himself was completely rude and uncooperative and accused the plumbers of not knowing what they were doing and that’s what we get for not dealing with professionals etc. After numerous calls and emails to D including pictures of the hole and taped area where they said the trap was, they finally agreed to come back over. After coming over and doing the test again, they found the trap 6 feet in another direction. 6 feet! So the jack hammering began again, only this time D was doing it. Two holes in the living room floor.

It gets worse. During their digging, the D plumbers hit a water line just below the slab. And even worse, D plumbing refused to fix the water break that they created. Incredible. My contractor and the lead man came to verbal blows over it outside. D refused and left. There we were with not only two holes in the floor, but a water leak to boot. About an hour later, D called back and said they would send a man over to fix it. 3 hrs later and a lot of welding, the pipe was fixed. My plumbers, however, could not afford the time they were spending digging holes and not finding a pipe, so they quit the job. My contractor, Julie, hung in there with me and found another plumber to do the job.

The entire time, Julie kept saying this was the reason she started her own company because she was tired of dealing with the D’s out there and folks needed and deserved to work with trustworthy people. Julie was my advocate and stuck with the project out of principle … she knew I needed her.

The 3rd plumber completed the digging and sawed the trap out. Ironically, the trap was not clogged. The clog was in another area of the pipe. Unreal.

He put in a new pipe and unclogged the area that was clogged. They cut into the drywall behind the washer to put in a vent. Homes in the 60’s put traps in the foundation to keep the sewage fumes from entering the house. Therefore, when the trap was replaced with a straight pipe, a vent needed to be added and it was easy to do in the wall behind the washer.

If I had it all to do over I would have run the washing machine a few full cycles during the inspection (this is not typically done by inspectors, so I recommend you attend the inspection and run the washer a few times yourself) … especially homes built in this era that have cast iron pipes running through the slab.

The contractor, Julie, who owns a business called Hard Working Women definitely worked hard to see the job through. D Plumbing on the other hand was not only significantly incorrect with their diagnosis of both the clogged trap and the location of the trap, but they were extremely rude and hard to deal with. I am still considering reporting them to the better business bureau.

I spent a day dusting and cleaning and working on the carpet so it looked like nothing ever took place under the carpet. The new tenant moved in 2 days later and all is well. The project cost was about $3500. We did get the sellers to pay for a portion of the repair.

Kay – austin, tx

This is an ongoing series of homeowner insight & advice on repairs, upgrades, & add-ons, sometimes do-it-yourself (DIY), sometimes not, chronicling what went well, what did not go so well and advice for the rest of us. Please feel free to submit your repair chronicle to the http://www.TNPBlog.com … we would love to hear your stories and advice. If you wish to submit, please follow this format: (Oh, and we reserve the right to edit and publish or not publish as we see fit. By submitting to the TNPBlog Repair Chronicles, you agree that we can edit or publish and/or not publish as we see fit.)

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© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

July 7, 2008 at 6:26 pm 1 comment

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