We won’t say that in recent years the process of finding a good contractor has become easier. Finding a communicative, astute, responsible contractor is still like finding gold. But home repairs still tend to attract con artists. If you know a few things to look for and avoid, however, you may be spared a less-than-HGTV-happy experience.

There are a number of reasons a relationship with a contractor goes south. Unrealistic expectations find homeowners assuming their builder can snap his fingers and — poof! — their dream remodel appears. Keep in mind very few contractors have the wherewithal to hire administrative employees, meaning they end up doing most of the scheduling and paperwork while trying to get your kitchen remodel done. So cut these guys some slack.

And then there are the Craigslist con artists who see a trusting, vulnerable homeowner with little-to-no knowledge about their home’s inner workings and bells go off. This is what we’re covering here — how to sniff one out before they turn your dream home into a nightmare. Here are a few danger signs.

Their credentials aren’t handy when you ask for them. Be a detective. In most states, skilled work, like the jobs performed by electricians and plumbers, must be completed by a licensed contractor. So don’t be afraid to ask to see a copy of your contractor’s license—a pro won’t be offended. You can jot down their full name and contractor number and access a database online through your local state contractor licensing board to verify they are legit as well as study any challenges made to their license as well.

Always, always ask to review their proof of insurance as well as a list of references. Even if you had a guy come into your home and suede shoe you into believing he was the best guy for the job, if he gets cagey or can’t produce credentials like these, set him loose. And there is no shame in calling his past clients and asking if they would hire him again.

The public has a bully pulpit these days with online consumer reviews. You can look contractors up on HomeAdvisor, Yelp!, or AngiesList to read about other homeowners’ experience with them. If you see tons of 5 star reviews of them with only a few exceptions, usually the contractor can explain what might have gone wrong with those few jobs. If all he does is badmouth the homeowner, however, you may not want him on your team.

If your contractor hands you a bill before he gets started, don’t panic. It’s not uncommon for pros to ask for a portion of their initial quote up front—but typically, it’s no more than 30 to 50% of the quote. He uses this money to purchase the building supplies without dipping into his own pocket to get the job started. If it makes you feel better about it, ask him for receipts for the materials purchased. However, what he should not do is ask for the entire estimate amount on the spot. It makes it way too easy for him to cut and run. Anyone worth his salt knows better than to ask for 100%.

There is no longer an excuse for not being able to reach your contractor. His mobile phone is his best friend, and texting should have become an art form to him by now. So if he is tough to reach, it may be time to say buh-bye. Of course, you can’t expect him to answer the phone every time it rings, but he should make an effort to get back to you promptly.

If he doesn’t have your back, confront him. You are paying for a pro to handle emergencies, so his problems should not become yours. Trust is king here, and if you find it faltering, your good feelings may turn into stomach acid. There is no shame in firing a contractor and looking for another one well into the project, either. Just expect a few headaches until you can find another one.

As for bidding the job, if it seems too good to be true it usually is. A deal is a deal, except when it comes at the cost of quality, materials, or skill. Make sure you collect at least three separate bids for a home remodeling project. You may love something different about each contractor, but it’s still a necessary exercise to get a feel for the average price of this kind of work. It will also give you a sense of your contractors’ trustworthiness, creativity, and his desire to keep things as cost-effective as possible so you might hire him for future projects as well. If a bid seems uncharacteristically low, it may be a sign something is wrong. It may indicate his using recalled materials, hiring a less-than-skilled crew or his intention to do the work as quickly—and shoddily—as possible. Whatever the reason, you’ll probably wind up paying for it later, so it’s best to avoid these kinds of unrealistic quotes even if they tell you their overhead is lower than everyone else’s. By the way, working exclusively out of a pick-up truck means they can disappear like a stench in the wind.

Delays do happen in the construction business. Estimates are off, materials need to be reordered, and unpredictable weather happens. It’s always wise to think of that completion date more of a goal than a promise. However, a contractor who keeps missing deadlines without explanation is not one you want working on your home. Do yourself a favor and give him the boot. Even though your memories of your remodel might be less than pleasant, in the long run, your wallet will thank you.

 

Source: TBWS

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News impacting mortgage rates last week was dominated by the Fed’s decision to not start tapering the purchase of bonds.  Other economic data mostly reported weaker than anticipated.  Rates ended the week about 1.5 discount points cheaper than at the end of the previous week.  (This reduction means a$200,000 mortgage at a rate of 4.5% would cost about $3,000 less.)

This week Monday looks to be the quietest day for the markets.   Data to look for later in the week include:  Durable Goods, New Home Sales and Consumer Spending.

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The Fed’s decision to continue the current rate of bond purchases was not a unanimous decision and left the possibility open that tapering may begin later this year.  It is a great time to take advantage of the recent dip in mortgage rates. The tapering issue continues  loom over the financial markets

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National Home Prices Nearing Pre-Crash Levels
Aug 26 2013, 11:11AM – From Mortgage News Daily

Home prices keep edging closer to pre-crash price levels and today’s Home Price Index report from Lender Processing Services (LPS) indicates that national prices are now back within 15.2 percent of that peak.  The index for June rose to $229,000 from 226,000 in May, an increase of 1.2 percent and is up 6.9 percent from the end of last year.  The peak, in June 2006, was $270,000.

LPS used its loan-level databases and June 2013 residential real estate transactions to conduct a repeat sales analysis of home prices.  The LPS HPI represents the price of non-distressed sales by taking into account price discounts for bank-owned real estate (REO) and short sales.

States with the biggest month-over-month appreciation were Nevada, up 2.4 percent, Florida, 1.7 percent, and California and Illinois at 1.6 percent each.  Other states with increases exceeding one percent in a month were Delaware, Georgia, Utah, North Dakota, Colorado, and Arizona.

 

 

All states showed some appreciation from May to June but the smallest gains were in Nebraska at 0.4 percent, Alaska at 0.5 percent, and Iowa at 0.6 percent.  Click Here for Full Article

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Beat The Heat With A Programmable ThermostatSummer always brings with it a hard choice: Do you turn down the thermostat to stay cool and resign yourself to high power bills? Or, do you sweat it out to save some dough?

If you’ve been struggling with this dilemma, don’t fret.

With a programmable thermostat, you can beat the heat and save money, too. They are easy to install and can save you over $100 a year.

The key is that they have different temperature settings for certain times of the day. The latest models can be self-installed, are easy to program and can be controlled over the Internet.

Save Energy

This is obviously the biggest perk. Not only are you helping the environment, you’re also helping your monthly budget.

You can preset the thermostat to adjust the temperature when you’re away from the house, so you’re using less energy. Then it can kick back on just before you arrive home.

Save Money

You’ll immediately see a difference in your utility bills when you set your programmable thermostat to turn off for eight-hour periods while you’re at work. Every little bit counts!

Save Yourself The Frustration

If you’re going to be home early from work or are arriving back from a week long vacation, don’t worry about coming home to a sweltering sauna of a house.

Most modern thermostats allow you to access their controls online through a computer, or even your smart phone. With the touch of a button, you’ll arrive to a perfectly comfortable home.

Save Even More

Below are a few tips to keep bills down and your thermostat running efficiently.

  • Make sure you place the thermostat away from air vents, open doorways and windows with direct sunlight.

  • Try to set temperatures for longer increments, such as when you’re at work or while you’re asleep.

  • Every time you hit the buttons you’re using more energy.

  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them once a year.

Don’t waste any more energy! Make the investment in a programmable thermostat and start saving this summer. The convenience and lower utility bills will make you glad you did.

For more tips on home maintenance and savings, reach out to your trusted mortgage professional today.

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5 Important Summer Deck Inspection TipsSummer seems to be slipping away quickly. And, while you’ve hosted many barbecues on your back deck, you might not have had time to properly take care of it.

August is the perfect month to conduct a deck inspection and make any repairs before the time comes to prepare it for winter. Below are tips on some issues to watch for and how to fix them.

Inspect The Deck

It’s important to do a thorough inspection of your deck every summer. You don’t want to step through a rotted board or have a railing break away from under you.

Be sure to pay extra attention to places close to the ground or near water sources, such as under planters and next to the water spigot.

Check For Rot

Take a screwdriver and poke areas of the deck that look like they could be rotting.

If you can push the screwdriver in a quarter inch or more, then you’ll need to consider replacing the board. However if the hole is smaller than the size of a tennis ball, you can fill it with wood preservative and save some money.

Get Low

Go under the deck if possible. You’ll need to check the supporting beams for any serious problems. Dangerous scenarios occur when the structure of the deck is compromised.

If you find an issue with a beam that cannot be removed because it’s holding up the deck, then reinforce it on both sides with pressure-treated lumber. Then scrape away the decomposing area.

Shake It Up

Give the railings a good shake to make sure they are structurally sound. Check for cracking around screw and nail holes.

If you find one, then remove the screw or nail, seal with exterior adhesive and drill a new hole to secure again.

Look For Cupping

Cupping occurs when wood absorbs and releases moisture, which may cause the floor planks to bow and warp. You want to make sure that guests and your family don’t trip over unruly slats. It might be a good idea to rent a professional-quality sander and even out the imperfections.

Perform a deck inspection to make sure your outdoor area is in suitable condition. Serious injuries can occur when homeowners don’t take the time to properly inspect and maintain their outdoor living spaces. Not to mention, it saves money to catch issues early and not have to replace the entire structure.

For more helpful tips on periodic home maintenance, please feel free to contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

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How To Bring More Natural Light Into Your HomeOne of the biggest improvements that you can make to your home is to bring in more natural light.

Sunlight is a powerful mood enhancer and a home design that brings in a lot of natural light will automatically look and feel much more pleasant. Not only will it boost your mood, bringing in natural light will also increase the value of your home.

So how can you shed some light on your home’s interior?

Here are a few ways:

Add More Reflective Surfaces

Whenever you add a light and reflective surface to your home, you increase the number of times that daylight bounces around inside the room.

Try painting your ceilings and walls with light or off-white colours. Matte finishes are actually better than glossy surfaces, as they reflect light in all directions at once. Add some metal accents and some mirrors to the space, which will also reflect the light.

Move Your Furniture Around

Do you have furniture that is blocking natural light from coming in? Move your furniture away from the windows so that it will not get in the way of the sunlight streaming into your home.

Add A Glass Door

Is there anywhere in your home where you can exchange a solid door for one with glass in its design? This will allow the light to flow through the doorway and increase the feeling of brightness in your home.

There are plenty of glass doors with superb security features, so they will be just as safe as any other door. Also, if you have a yard or a patio to look out on, adding sliding glass doors will be a great way to let the light in and enjoy the view.

Expand Your Windows

Is it possible to increase the size of any of your windows? If yes, the windows on the south side of the house, will bring a significant amount of sunshine into the home.

Add A Skylight

Adding skylights to your home will bring a lot of natural light into the interior. Also, they are much more private than windows because anyone passing by will not be able to see through them. They also add overhead lighting, so that you will not need to use electricity during daylight hours.

These are just a few ways that you can let the sunshine in and bring more natural light into your Richmond home.

If you have any other home questions, please contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

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5 Important Tips To Protect Your Home From Burglars When You Are AwayAny family would feel violated after coming home to a ransacked house. Burglars look for specific things when choosing a home to break into, and many homeowners are unknowingly inviting criminals through the front door.

Below are five ways you can avoid drawing the eyes of thieves and deter your home from becoming a target.

Beware Of Selling To Strangers

If you’re wanting to sell items on Craigslist or another internet-based classified ad website, attempt conducting your transactions outside of the home.

If you must meet at home, screen the person over the telephone to ensure that they are truly interested in the item you’re selling. Thieves have been known to make appointments just to check out your home.

Be Careful If You Tweet About It

Not all of your friends protect their social media information, or may not have the most virtuous acquaintances. If you share your upcoming vacation or big event, then a mischievous friend of a friend will know the perfect time to forcefully check out your home.

Learn how to limit your social media posts to only your trusted contacts.

Mind Your Trash

Be careful when it comes to taking out the garbage, especially around holidays. Criminals will drive around nice neighborhoods and specifically look for empty boxes of high-price items. Then all they have to do is wait for you to leave the house before they force their way in and nab the goods.

Break down boxes and conceal them in garbage bags or trashcans.

Prepare For Your Vacation

Make sure when you leave on vacation that you put a few lights on timers and have someone collect your mail. A home that is obviously vacant is every burglar’s dream.

And if you’re on an extended holiday, ensure you also hire someone to take care of the lawn – overgrown grass is a no-one-is-home indicator.

Secure The Safe

Just because you put your valuables in a safe doesn’t mean they’re secure. If the safe isn’t installed in a wall or bolted to the floor, then a burglar can just carry it through your front door. They can figure out how to break into it later.

Make the additional time investment to ensure your safe can’t walk out the door.

With a little common sense and by following the advice above, you’ll reduce the risk of your home being targeted by burglars. If you would like more information about keeping your Henrico home secure, please call your trusted real estate professional today.

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Hot Home Decor Trends 2013Just like fashion designs and hair styles, home decor trends are constantly changing and evolving. Each new season brings a new must-have feature for your home.

In order to keep your home looking fresh and chic, what are the hot trends for 2013 that you can incorporate into your decor?

Here are a few ideas:

Bright Paint Colors

Vibrant (and even neon) hues are very popular in fashion at the moment and they also look really chic on your walls. If you are looking for a way to freshen up a dull room, a bright pop of color can really do the trick.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you keep the rest of the room neutral and use the bright color as an accent.

Original Artwork

Decorating your home with unique and original works of art from funky local artists is a hot trend this year. You could find such pieces at a local art fair or on online craft auction websites.

You could also check out a local art school or university art program in your area, where you can buy some student artwork at cheap prices.

1920s Inspired Designs

With the Roaring 20s being revitalized on the silver screen in the show Boardwalk Empire and the film The Great Gatsby, designs from the 1920s are becoming more popular. Why not incorporate some gorgeous Art Deco furniture or decoration into your home?

Check out auctions to find authentic vintage pieces for cheap prices.

Simple Wood

Another hot trend for 2013 is unfinished exposed wood furniture, with a very natural texture and feel. These simple wood pieces give your home a natural beauty that compliments any color. It works well with neutral accents to give the home a very peaceful and welcoming atmosphere.

Stripes and Graphic Prints

Crisp patterns, graphic prints and stripes are popular at the moment in everything from fabrics to wallpaper to furniture. If you really want to make your home décor look cutting edge, incorporate some of these eye-popping graphic designs into your décor.

These are just a few of the hottest home décor trends of the year 2013. Which ones will you incorporate into the décor of your home?

For more information about buying or updating your Richmond  home, please contact your trusted mortgage professional today!

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