Tips for a Proper Home Inspection

Buying your own shelter is definitely an achievement in itself. But purchasing the right home is not at all easy. There are many things that should be taken into consideration. By hiring a home inspector a proper evaluation of a particular property can be done. This helps to recover any issues and indicate them before one can spend on the house or probably move into them. So, follow this article to find out some of the home inspection tips that can help you spend your money wisely.

Attend the Home Inspection

When a property is being inspected by a real estate agent you should surely attend the inspection. The inspection will take just a few hours. By doing that you would be able to get all the information correctly from the inspector. This will help you find all the issues personally and can save you from making a costly mistake.

No Follow-Up

If issues are found then the inspectors might suggest you some repairing. If you feel they are not much then you can find out the estimate that might be incurred. In some instances, the first home inspector whom you approach might want to take suggestions from another service provider. This can actually be good and help you get a proper third opinion. So, wait for the opinion so that you are ensured about your choice.

Do Not Rely Only On the Inspector

If you have a suspicion you can always go for a professional checkup. This will help you determine in a better way. Another thing that you should be going for is a termite inspection. This will find out if there are termites in the place. So, there will be chances that you will be staying protected from making costly repairs after buying a home.

Home Inspection For New Homes Too

We often think that a newly built home does not need inspection. But we are wrong. This step is very important and should not be avoided. This will indicate how the building has been built and if there are any imperfections.

Additional Tests for Older Homes

If you are buying an older home then you might have to check other things. The tests that should be done are running a camera through the drainage lines, a hydrostatic test in the drains might help to find out leakages in the drainage system. It is one of the important things to remember.

How to Estimate the Cost of Building a New Home

This will serve as a help guide by providing some tips and techniques for estimating the cost of building a new home. As an expert residential estimator there are many things to consider before you begin estimating.

Construction estimating can be difficult and it does require a high level of accuracy and detail. It also requires good math skills and a little geometry knowledge. It requires the ability to read and understand construction drawings and details and how they are applied. Basic construction knowledge helps and being familiar with the local building codes.

You may want to enroll in a construction estimating course at the local college or technical school. Another option is to purchase an estimating manual from your local bookstore or go to estimating.org which offers online courses and has a bookstore.

One of the rules that I have learned along the way is the old saying, “measure twice cut once.” Whenever I do a takeoff or an estimate I always follow this rule in order to help minimize mistakes.

What will you need to put an estimate together?

You will need a notepad, a calculator, an architectural scale, and an engineering scale. These are the basic tools you need to put an estimate together.

Architectural & Structural Drawings

Now you are ready to open the plans and begin to review them. The easiest thing to do is look them over and get a feel for the basic building concept. You should get familiar with the information that is contained on each sheet.

Most construction projects have a set of architectural drawings and a set of structural drawings. I will explain the difference between the two.

It is important that the plans are to scale and have all the required details and wall sections needed to properly estimate from.

What is typically included in a complete set of architectural plans? The drawings at a minimum need to contain the following sheets: a title/cover sheet, a site plan, a floor plan, a foundation plan, four elevations, a roof plan, an electrical plan, a sheet with a typical wall section, a sheet with the window and door schedules, and a sheet with the necessary building and architectural details.

The structural drawings are drawn by a structural engineer, not the architect, unless the architectural firm has an in-house engineer. Any interior shear wall or bearing wall is detailed on these drawings.

The engineer calculates all the uplift and bearing loads of the roof trusses on all the interior and exterior. After doing the calculations they determine which walls are shear or bearing or both and what is required to properly support those uplift and or bearing loads. The engineer will put a structural note on any wall that is bearing or shear. The note will indicate the sheet number and detail number illustrating how that wall needs to be built.

A load bearing wall for example could have a thickened concrete footer with two pieces of steel and the wall above it may need to be framed out of southern yellow pine versus spruce with special metal hardware. These should be highlighted on the plan so they will not be overlooked. Sometimes the hardware called out by the engineer is a special order and can take several weeks to get. So if you wait until the framing package needs to ordered and there are a two or three shear walls with special order hardware it could delay the construction.

You need to make enough copies of the architectural and structural plans for multiple subcontractors and suppliers bidding the job. To save you money, ask your architect and engineer to convert the drawing files to a PDF file. This will save you time as well and make it convenient because you can email them to as many subcontractors and vendors as you like.

Specifications

A list of product specifications must be provided so all the subcontractor and vendors are bidding apples to apples. This is a list detailing all the products and finishes you want in your new home. It does not make sense to send the plans out to bid without a set of specifications. Without this, the bids you receive will not be apples to apples. Then you will need to have them all rebid the project. It wastes a lot of time and creates a lot of unnecessary work for the subcontractors. Remember these guys do not need practice bidding and some of them may not submit a bid without a set of specifications included. Therefore, everything from paint colors to the floor finishes need to be selected. They need to be listed on the plan or on a separate document.

Doing the Takeoffs

It is too technical to put in a written guide how to quantify the concrete, masonry, lumber, and shingles just to name a few. For example let’s assume you need to quantify the masonry block on a single story block home. You have to know how the wall is assembled which includes the ability to visualize and understand construction methods. If the exterior walls have multiple heights, a regular block (8x8x16) needs to be added and a lintel block needs to be deducted in each location where the plate heights change. If some of the walls are on a 45 degree angle you need to be able to know whether to estimate an angle block or butterfly block. The door and window openings need a certain quantity of regular blocks deducted plus a half block every other course on each side of each opening. You could have too much of one size block and either not enough or some units not accounted for at all. These inaccuracies will throw off your budget and cost you time and money. This ability and knowledge can not come from a book but through hands on experience combined with years of estimating experience.

If you decide to quantify the materials yourself I suggest you refer to Walker’s Building Estimator’s Reference Book, frankrwalker.com which has instructions on how to estimate the quantities of concrete, masonry, lumber, drywall, etc. It is considered the bible for construction estimators and it is one of required books included in the study guide for most state contractor’s exam. Just keep in mind that these reference books do not have tips and tricks as well as real world experience as explained above.

You can employ the help of your subcontractors bidding the work or your suppliers. You may pay more for their product or service or you can hire us. Either way you are paying for someone to review the plans and quantify what is needed to build the project.

If you have your lumber yard quantify the material remember he is trying to win the job so he may provide a takeoff that is too tight. This does not benefit you if you have to keep reordering more lumber. The obvious answer to this is to have your framer put together the lumber list for you. Well that does not work either because he will over order so he does not run out of material and have to make additional trips to finish. They want to finish as fast as possible so it can get inspected and they can get paid. The bottom line is neither are working in your best interest.

I recommend you do not attempt to quantify the materials yourself. I have outlined valid reasons why. It is very technical and requires someone with years of estimating experience combined with hands on field experience.

Soliciting Bids

This part of preparing an estimate can be done by most anyone. I suggest you contact your local builder’s association to get subcontractor referrals or use Angie’s List, angieslist.com which prescreens contractors as well

You may have heard the term RFQ – Request for Quote. You want to solicit at least contractors. Most people will say three bids, so why do I recommend five bids? Let’s say you contact five contractors and all five contractors bid the project. You got to figure one will be the high bid and one will be the low bid. So those should be set to the side because chances are the low bid is probably missing something and the high bid is priced too high. The remaining three bids should be reviewed thoroughly to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

When you contact all the subcontractors that you want to bid your project be sure to give them a bid due date. That way you do not have to chase them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to review the plans and specifications, typically a week or two.

Analyzing the Bids

First organize all your bids by trade, such as putting all your electrical bids together. A three ring binder with dividers and tabbed with each category is a good way to organize all the bids.

Once you receive the bids you need to read them carefully and review them against the plans and specifications. They should have the project information and the date. They need to be detailed and itemized. The cabinet bid should not say “cabinets”. Instead it should list and quantify all the cabinets by finish, style, size, and location, example 15 lnft of 42″ oak raised panel kitchen cabinets, 1/ea 60″ melamine master bath cabinet, 1/ea 36″ melamine hall bath cabinet, etc. If it does not include the countertops it should state that so there is no misrepresentation.

When a proposal needs to be revised, make sure it states the revision date or states “revised”. That way when you compile the bids and you need to refer back to them you will be looking at the latest one.

The proposals should also indicate workmanship and warranty. All this is important, especially if the contractor does not perform and mediation or worse litigation is required.

How to Negotiate the Best Price

Once you determine the three competitive bids the hard part is negotiating with the contractors. You have to assume that all the quotes will be inflated with the understanding you will negotiate less. Therefore, you need to get them down as low as you can to the real number. I always ask my subcontractors and vendors if the bid is negotiable. Remember it never hurts to ask, the worse they can say is no. And if they say yes, then I ask them what is the maximum they can cut their bid. They normally respond with, “how much do I need to cut it to get the job” and again I put it back on them by saying, “the maximum you can cut your price”. Never name a price first! You should already have a budget of what you can afford to spend on each item. You never know whether or not they would be willing to do it for less than that.

Once they lower their bids and you determine the low bidder you need to compare warranty, workmanship, and references. Price is important, but if they can not finish the job the price does not mean anything. You definitely need to check both project references and credit references. The bottom line is you want the best contractor for the least amount of money.

Preparing an Estimate

Once you have awarded the job to each subcontractor you will want to prepare an estimate. I recommend using Microsoft Excel to organize your estimate. It is the easiest and mostly widely used spreadsheet application, especially in construction.

It helps organize your estimate. You can use a separate worksheet for each trade within the Excel workbook. You can enter all the material lists and bid amounts you receive. You can track the job to make sure you are on budget. You can email your local suppliers your material lists so they can enter their unit prices and they can email it back to you.

One of the sheets needs to be the estimate summary which has the total cost for each phase or trade. It should include your preconstruction costs and direct construction costs.

It should have the estimate total at the bottom.

There are endless possibilities you can do with Excel and the level of detail is up to you.

We have for sale blank estimates that are in Excel. These are templates that we use which can help you calculate some of the material quantities and can also be used to prepare your estimate. They contain prebuilt formulas for calculating concrete, steel, masonry, and lumber. All you need to do is enter counts and lengths where indicated and the quantities are calculated for you. Contact us to send you a sample template.

Conclusion

I hope this has provided you will some good information on how to prepare an estimate if you are building a new home. We are available to answer any questions you may have. We can help you put together an estimate for any type of construction project, big or small, residential or commercial.

7 Ways to Prepare Your Motor Home for Sale

Be it a brick and mortar building or a wheeled home; preparation is the key to a quick and lucrative deal. If you are wondering how to sell your motor home, you will find the following seven tips useful:

Clean Your Vehicle

Clean your coach. Thoroughly. Remember, it is the simplest thing you can do to prepare the unit for sale. Proper cleaning goes way beyond mere dusting, scrubbing, polishing, and waxing. Give the interior an organized, tip-top look so that it inspires your buyers to imagine a life inside it.

Get the Service History in Place

You know that you have taken great care of your rig, but how do you prove that to your prospects? Your RV’s service records say it all. So, get all the maintenance papers in place. Also, check whether the factory warranty document is still valid. If yes, it will be an added advantage for your buyers, and a reason for you to ask for a higher price.

Include All Paperwork in Your Offering

Your customers will appreciate if you show them that you have preserved all manuals, handbooks, and other relevant papers that you have received at the time of the purchase. These documents are valuable because they would help the new owner to understand the vehicle better and carry on with its future maintenance needs. Also, keep the Monroney sticker intact that was affixed by the manufacturer at the time of purchase, and contains retail price information. This item would make your future customer very happy as it provides detailed information about the vehicle equipment.

Organize Documents That Matter

Make sure you have these three documents in place- the vehicle’s title, registration certificate, and insurance card. If you are still repaying the loan, contact the lender to learn about the procedure for prepayment. You will have to clear the payment and get a clean title to conclude the sale.

Set a Price

Consult resources like Kelley Blue Book to determine the current value of your RV. Also, research the many online listing sites to get an idea about the price that similar vehicles command.

Get a Second Opinion

Visit a couple of dealerships in your vicinity and request them to offer a quote for your rig. You can use this offer as the starting point for negotiation with your prospects. If you want to avoid physical visits, get in touch with any online dealership. These organizations make an offer based solely on your rig’s description and photos.

Prepare the Deed in Advance

Besides providing necessary information like name, address, contact number, and email ID mention that you are selling the coach ‘as is’ without an express warranty. Download your state-specific Bill of Sale online, or collect a form from your local DMV office.

Selling a vehicle is by no means easy. However, we feel that staying prepared does make things simple. If you are thinking of how to sell your motor home without going through the hassles of dealing with buyers directly, you may contact a reliable broker who will buy your rig against instant cash.

Designing Your Log Home: Tips To Keep You Out of Trouble

Nearly every log home is a custom design, whether you are altering a stock plan or starting from scratch. By their very nature, custom floor plans open up a large number of untested challenges – especially if you are trying to design the house yourself. With almost all log home manufacturers, an in-house architect will take your design and turn it into a set of drawings that conform to their building system. Your home will be structurally sound. However, don’t necessary expect them to point out every inconvenience or snafu in your design. This is a hands-on business, and in the end, your house design is on you… and you’ll have to live with it. Here are a few pointers I can suggest to make your design more efficient.

MECHANICALS: Open floor plans are the essence of the modern log home. They make a home feel larger, and keep the cook from feeling isolated. However, if you have a second floor you need to consider how you are going to get the plumbing, the electric and the ductwork (both supply and return) to the upstairs rooms. You won’t be using the exterior walls for that, so you need to create enough interior walls downstairs to fit all the mechanicals. Each object in all likelihood will take its own space between the 2x4s. Even if you use radiant-floor heating, you’ll need ductwork for the air conditioning. There are some systems that use high-pressure ductwork much smaller in diameter than conventional ducts, so there are other possibilities if you are pressed for space. But the best solution is to think ahead. If you’re tempted to use an interior full-log wall (or none at all), you may be sacrificing an opportunity to get more ductwork upstairs.

PLUMBING: The wisest floor plans are the ones that try to keep the bathrooms together (either back-to-back or one directly above the other) and the shortest runs on the plumbing. This can’t always be done, but when placing the upstairs bathroom, try to line it up with an interior downstairs wall. This way the plumbing doesn’t have to snake all over the place.

CLOSETS: I would venture to guess that log homes are usually notoriously short on closet space. I know my home is. First of all, it would be a terrible waste to put a closet against an exterior log wall. Why hide your beautiful logs? And because we try to keep the square footage down to a minimum, it almost seems a crime to waste precious space on closets. However, there’s more than one reason to include them. Not only do we seem to collect more stuff as we get older, but by law in several states the closet determines whether a room is a bedroom or an office. This could affect the resale (or refinancing) of your house. Here is a suggestion: put two closets side-by-side on the wall separating two rooms; the closets may not be huge, but it doesn’t change the shape of the rooms. Try to include a coat closet near your front door.

WINDOWS: As I’m sure you’ve already read many times, you can’t have too many windows in a log home. The wood sucks up the light like a sponge. If you have a large empty wall, the insertion of a window near the peak not only lets in more light, it adds character. Some people add windows along either side of a shed dormer. In my case, I had to move the roof line to increase the size of my bedroom window, because by code it needed to be 6′ square for egress. In any upstairs bedroom you’ll need your windows to be large enough to climb out in case of fire. Also remember that too many direct-set windows will decrease the amount of air flow to your upstairs. In my house I added an awning (a small hinged window) to the bottom of stationery windows in my dormers. This helped let air in, but even so the rooms can be stuffy. A ceiling fan helps, but ultimately I may need to add a skylight to create a draft.

KITCHEN VENT: One of the more difficult decisions we made concerned how to vent the range hood. If you don’t want your stove to be on an exterior wall, you are going to have an interesting puzzle. Will you run the exhaust duct between the floor joists to the exterior? Will the run be so long you’ll have to add another fan? I gave in and moved my stove to the exterior wall, but then we had to cut a hole in the logs for the vent. Horrors! How do you hide that? My builder built a little cedar box around the hole and we were lucky enough to have a porch roof underneath, so you can’t see it from every direction. Still, this ugly vent is on the front of the house, and had I thought of it, I may have moved the kitchen to the back of the house.

CRAWL SPACE vs. BASEMENT: There are many reasons to opt for a crawl space rather than a basement – none of them particularly comfortable. Aside from the obvious disadvantages of a crawl space, there are a few things we didn’t think of. I, in my blissful ignorance, didn’t give any thought to the ugly electrical panel. Of course, I knew we’d have meters and a panel, but I didn’t think of where they were going. What I didn’t know was that by code, we couldn’t put the panel in the crawl space. Since we don’t have a garage, the electrical panel was installed in one of our rooms on the log wall. Isn’t that lovely? Another disadvantage of the crawl space: you’ll need a short water heater if that’s where it is going, and you may need to purchase a horizontal-mount furnace. Because our water quality was poor, we had to install a purification system. This 54″ unit must be mounted upright, and our crawl space is 48″ tall. We had to punch a hole through the concrete floor to make room for the unit.

GUTTERS: Yes, you want to get the water away from your log home at all costs. There can be challenges; we have an alpine-style home with a vaulted ceiling. However, the roof comes to a deep V on the corners that create a magnificent rain chute. This is not necessarily wonderful when it dumps onto your deck! Because of the generous overhang that comes with a log home, the end of that V projects far from the walls and doesn’t make a logical angle from which to hang a downspout. On one corner I satisfied myself with an old-fashioned rain barrel, and on the deck side we had to divert the water to the pergola we built against the house, and ran a gutter along the edge of the pergola.

OVERHANGS: You should have at least a 1′ foot and preferably a 2′ overhang to protect your logs. This overhang needs to be taken into consideration when designing your roof line. If you have overlapping angles, make sure you are not creating a water trap or a snow trap. There are times your overhang might bump into another angle of the roof. You may actually have to raise part of the roof a little to make clearance.

DOOR SWINGS: This can be one of the most annoying errors you can make and not catch until too late. Think of what your door is covering when opened all the way. Is it covering another doorway? Will two doors bang together? If you are in a tight space, will it open all the way at all? When we installed our bathroom vanity, we didn’t think about the door swing until the plumbing was already hooked up. The door cleared the vanity by one whole inch; it could have been worse. You can compensate by swinging the other way (before it’s already hung, or your hinges will be on the wrong side). Or, in the design phase you can use a narrower door. Or get a smaller vanity.

ELECTRICAL: The electrical and plumbing layout will not come from your log home architectural drawings. The manufacturer is not concerned about where you put your outlets. Once the plans are firmed up, the time will come for you to sit down with the electrician and mark exactly where you want your outlets, switches and light fixtures. Local code will determine the minimum distance between outlets, but anyone will tell you to put in more than you need; eventually you will probably use them anyway. Even if you don’t need it, put your cable and telephone into every room; it’s so much easier and cheaper to do it up front. Also remember, you can’t ever have too many lights in a log home. Plan ahead for those fixtures – especially the ones in the ceiling. They will not be pretty to add later on.

DEAD SPACE: If you are building a huge log home, you’ve got so much space it doesn’t really matter. But for most of the rest of us, every inch counts. There are some approaches that might maximize your floor space. First of all, do you really need hallways? Some space-saving designs arrange the rooms so they all open into a small hallway. I prefer none at all. Also, consider that every closet door creates dead space. If you can arrange your floor plan so that closet door swings into a place which is already dead (for instance, another closet door or a foyer), you might open up the room a bit. Does your loft serve a purpose or is it merely an open hallway from room to room? Can you put a piece of furniture on it? If not, perhaps it would serve to give it an angle and make your “open to below” space a little smaller.

Hopefully I’ve helped a little bit. I learned many of these tips the hard way, and I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t bumped into yet. After all, a custom home is one giant learning curve.